Banda Aceh – Thousands of soldiers and their spouses on Wednesday marked the 54th anniversary of the military command in Aceh by performing a traditional dance.
Some 3,000 troops and their significant others dressed in colorful Acehnese garb ignored the muddy field in the Blang Padang open square in Banda Aceh to perform the Saman dance.
The dance, from Aceh’s Gayo highland, is characterized by complex synchronized movements by dancers sitting in a row.
The dancers on Wednesday entered the eight-hectare field preceded by an elephant. The wives danced in the front rows while the men behind them.
The Saman dance was used to spread the messages of Islam in Aceh, with the accompanying songs expressing religious messages and advice.
Representatives of the Indonesian Museum of Records (MURI) were present to register the mass dance as a new record.
“With the award of a MURI record, we want to motivate all sides to safeguard the various Indonesian cultures from extinction,” said Damian Awan Raharjo, MURI deputy manager .
Damian later handed Aceh commander Maj. Gen Adi Mulyono with a certificate for the setting the mark for mass dance.
Col. Anton Nugroho, head of the organizing committee for the event, said 2,525 soldiers and 500 spouses participated in the performance.
“They trained at their respective units for one month, assisted by professional Saman trainers. In the last week, they rehearsed in this field to synergize their movements,” Anton said.
Adi said the Saman dance was chosen “to give an image to outsiders that Aceh is now really safe and secure.”
For almost three decades, the province has been the scene of violent separatist conflicts that were only brought to an end by a peace accord signed by the government and exiled leaders of the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in August 2005.
The peace pact was prompted in part by the devastating tsunami that hit coastal Aceh in 2004, killing more than 160,000 people and leaving wide swathes of destruction.
“We hope that through this performance, many people will now visit Aceh and help raise prosperity in this region,” Adi said.
The municipal government has declared 2011 as Visit Banda Aceh Year, and Adi said the military was ready to assist in any way to ensure the campaign is a success.
He said that if asked, the soldiers could perform the mass dance again for the sixth anniversary of the tsunami on Sunday.
The previous record for a mass Saman dance recorded by MURI was set by 1,050 dancers at the National Monument square in Jakarta on June 20.