中文

The Atayal

Myth, Dance and Music

The Atayal are very fond of singing, and their ballads and tunes are of such a bright and lively nature that they easily put both performers and listeners in a happy, relaxed mood. Sung in full, sonorous voices, they are also quite unique in style among Taiwan’s indigenous peoples. The exhilarating nature of Atayal music is particularly obvious during the annual Harvest Festival, where song and dance are a major part of the celebrations and never fail to create a vibrant atmosphere. The tunes reserved for weddings and coming-of-age ceremonies are also excitingly cheerful, using traditional symbolisms to encourage participants to drink, dance and generally have a good time together. It is important that everybody shares in the happy occasion. The Atayal are by nature a vivacious and passionate people, full of energy and emotions, and so it often happens that celebrations last several days in a row—each festive event turning into a testament to the tribe’s pure and generous spirit.

Dance Steps: Atayal dances are quite complex and feature a wide variety of dance steps, executed in single, double or multiple beats. A single dance may include many or most of the different steps in the Atayal repertoire.

Dance Moves and Formations: The formations of Atayal dance are, if anything, even more intricate than the individual steps. Each dancer will use his or her whole body for expressive moves and gestures, and often a group of dancers will enter a state of trance as they enjoy the rhythmic, well-tuned movements of their performance. For an observer, the perfect coordination involved is a truly dazzling sight. What makes the sight of an Atayal dance even more impressive are the colorful and richly embellished clothes worn by the performers. Music and dance are where the tribe’s spirit finds its purest and most attractive expression, and it is no exaggeration to say that dance is the Atayal people’s favorite art form.

Male Dances: A show of physical vigor and aesthetics, male dances can convey a wide range of emotions. Often they are very fast, featuring many high jumps and quick turns, and other movements so swift it can be hard to take them all in. But occasionally, they express the more romantic and humorous side of the males, mixing amazing moves with singing and shouting in a very sonorous, masculine timbre to the excitement of every onlooker.

With dance and music as important as they are in the Atayal community, it is not surprising that the children, soaking up the impressions of their environment, learn to sing and dance from a young age, and quickly become very proficient at both. Using the materials nature provides, the Atayal are also skillful makers of musical instruments that add an additional layer of sophistication to their dances. Today, performances of Atayal dance are usually held in settings such as major festivals (for example New Year celebrations) or dance competitions, for which the dancers prepare and rehearse long in advance. The fact that quite a bit of the original flair and spontaneity is lost under such circumstances only highlights the need for stronger efforts to preserve traditional tribal culture.