A Charming Dance with Cylindrical Drums

Trieu Khuc commune in Thanh Tri district of Hanoi is widely known nationwide not only as a “sacred land with many talented people”, but also as home to a traditional artistic performance  - the Mua bong, or dancing with cylindrical drums. At the village festival held in early spring, young male villagers disguise themselves as women by wearing women’s colourful dress and beautiful make-up to dance with cylindrical drums. The dance is very inviting and charming and entertains many visitors.

According to Trieu Khuc commune’s elders, Mua bong was not yet defined when it was first performed in the region, but local historical records showed that it is related to the legend about the victory of Great King Phung Hung who beat the ruling Chinese Tang troops in Tong Binh palace, present-day Trieu Khuc commune.

Mua bong is listed among the most ancient dances in Hanoi. Unlike other traditional dances, Mua bong is performed in service of the worshipping rituals during the Trieu Khuc village festival held twice a year, in lunar January and lunar August, in honour of the Great King Phung Hung, who is worshipped by the villagers as their Genie.

Due to the dance’s special performance relating to the worshipping rituals held at the village communal house, a sacred location of the village, members of the dancing team are carefully selected. There are from eight to twelve young men, who disguise themselves as women by wearing dresses, bras and kerchiefs, and each carrying a cylindrical drum on their belly. This kind of drum, called the Trong bong, has the unique values of the ancient Cham people. The performers use their hands to beat on the two ends of the drum while dancing to entertain visitors with their humorous moves.

Putting makeup on male dancer Bui Van Hao, 26 year old, before the show. Photo: Cong Dat

Putting kerchiefs on male dancer Cao Anh, who has been with
the Trieu Khuc dancing team for over 10 years. Photo: Cong Dat

According to artisans of Trieu Khuc commune, the dancers must perform skillfully and in great harmony. The dancers and their drum beats must match the worshipping services. Inside the communal house, when the wine offering ritual is taking place, performers outside the communal house will dance with the drum beats in tune – for each three wine offering moves, there will be three rounds of dance and drum beats. To date, Mua bong in Trieu Khuc commune is among the very few which are preserved as its origin.

Mua bong is the most anticipated event held during the village festival in Trieu Khuc commune. It was restored for preservation by the Vietnam Dancers’ Association and the Hanoi Dancers’ Association through the project “Ancient dances of Thang Long-Hanoi”.

Trieu Dinh Hong, a 65-year-old artisan in Trieu Khuc commune, said that while many other traditional artistic forms have disappeared or modernised, the Mua bong has still been preserved in its original performance. Hence, the dance has valuable artistic values with unique imprints of the country’s traditional culture in general, and of the capital Thang Long-Hanoi in particular.

Trieu Khuc performers perform at the village festival, which takes place
on January 9 – 12 of the lunar calendar. Photo: Cong Dat

Male dancers of Trieu Khuc village’s dancing team.Photo: Cong Dat

Male dancers, who disguise themselves as women by wearing women’s colourful dresses
and beautiful makeup, are wriggling and flirting with spectators to have fun with them. Photo: Cong Dat

Dancers perform skillfully and in great harmony between dancing and drumming. Photo: Cong Dat

The Trieu Khuc village’s dancing team attracts many spectators. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Dancers perform on a road in Trieu Khuc village. Photo: Thong Thien

Story: Cong Dat -Photos: Cong Dat, Thong Thien& Tran Thanh Giang