Len dong dance also called Hau dong dance is a sort of dance of those who practice Len dong rituals with the aim to sublimate, to incarnate into the role of a character (god)whom they play. The Len dong person wears clothes symbolizing the god who incarnates into him/her by praying and kowtowing, and then showing movements concerning them. Generally through the clothes, one understands at once who that god is among the gods of the four-palace religion in the Vietnamese. This dance is popular in most areas where Vietnamese live. It characterises the type of religious dance of the Vietnamese.
This dance is found in most areas where the Vietnamese are living. It takes place in temples for worshipping the Mother or other temples and palaces.
Len dong dance is a type of folk art of religious character very popular in temples and pagodas (where there are temples worshiping the Mother)in Viet Nam.
Len dong dance is a sorcerer's dance. The dancer is a person who has sublimated and whose soul is incarnated into the god whom he or she is playing. After that, he does various dances concerning the history of the god whom he or she has incarnated. If the god was a general, then the dancer holds sword and likes a fighter does movements like fighting in battles. If the god is in mountain and forest, then the dancer wears clothes like ethnic groups and uses dances characterised by that minority nationality, etc. The dancer, after each shift of Len dong dance times, changes his or her dress and incarnates into another god, and at the same time grants gifts of the gods to the surrounding persons in the form of money, fruits, flowers, and other things. The dancer (at the same time a shaman)distributes presents of the gods to believers and devotees around her or him and instructs them completely by signals, not by words. The music players also take note of the dress and appearance of the shaman, then play pieces of music in conformity with that character.
Where and when do they perform?
Those who play the role of Len dong dance have their groups of supporters who are called believers and devotees. They assemble to go to worship at temples, palaces, pagodas for a long-term purpose and seeking wealth, demanding presents of the gods, and good work and trade. Most traders have money, therefore they can afford to organise great festivals or rituals. If those who go into the trance have little money, they will have poor dresses and offerings. The places where they carry out Len dong dance are temples, palaces, pagodas which are considered very sacred. The time for performing the Len dong dance is the occasion of a festival or ritual or on any occasion (inauguration of the Mother house, after repairing anything, on anniversaries, festivals, etc.) Sometimes a number of persons in the group organise by themselves for some reason. It is not necessary to fix the time.
Len dong dance has already existed in Viet Nam for a very long time in the past. So far, we do not yet exactly know the date. At present, it is not encouraged by the State, but neither is it prohibited as in the past.
Most owners of temples and palaces have their private Len dong groups.
The management agency is the Viet Nam Ministry of Culture and Information and a number of other organisations such the Institute of Folk Culture Studies and the Viet Nam Folk Literature & Art Association.
Mr. Ngo Duc Thinh
The Institute of Folk Culture Studies
Address: 27 Tran Xuan Soan Street, Ha Noi, Viet Nam