Dances with horses — from jatilan & kuda lumping to gangnam & merengue

Four-legged men and women, which are common in global mythology, prove the human-horse connection is an old one.

From Indonesia’s mystical and trance-linked jatilan (also jathilan) and kuda lumping, to the refined steps of the Korean gangnam style — the equestrian tradition remains an inspiration for choreographers and dancers.

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Video below shows Indonesian horse spirit possession, although with horses rare in the archipelago, monkey spirit possession — being possessed by the spirit of a monkey– may actually be as common.

While in Indonesia trance dance is a time-honored way to put the whole village on edge, possession by the spirit of Janet Jackson (videos below) only began gaining popularity in the early 1980s (Jackson was born in 1966).

A relatively uncommon hybrid form of Indonesian dance/drama: simultaneous possession by the spirit of Janet Jackson and a horse (unknown breed):

In the inimitable “merengue” idiom, here’s one from the inimitable Kinito Mendez:


Why yes, a little editorial horseplay may be involved, but all in good fun, and to celebrate the fact that #jathilan was recently deemed the “world’s worst art form” by the Bibit Waluyo, the governor of Central Java (where an estimated 500-plus jathilan dance troupes and groups).  He said he didn’t mean it. Perhaps he was simply embarrassed by a bad performance. It’s just kind of a funny statement.

Jathilan and dance/performance traditions shows are truly on the weird end of the horse-play spectrum, but very popular here in Indonesia. Based on You Tube and Flickr, it looks pretty cool. So, I’m sure towns all over West Java, East Java and Malaysia will take the reins if Central Java decides it really is over the bamboo horse dance, after all these centuries. Bali separate but related forms of mane-ia and circumstantial evidence suggests the Madurese are also  hot to trot.

PLEASE COMMENT or FOLLOW, especially the trance dance channel for objective information about trance dance and spirit possession in Bali, Java and Madura.


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