Peacock Dance, a Visual Poetry

The folk dances of the Dai ethnic group enjoy not only wide popularity but great diversity. Most of them imitate the movements of subtropical creatures. Peacock is one of the best loved dance of the Dais, expressing the most touching and mysterious charm of the remote primitive tribe on the southwest border of China.  

The peacock is a precious bird in the sub-tropical zone. It is beautiful and tame. In the mind of the Dai ethnic group, it stands for auspiciousness and beauty. The excellent Peacock Dance reflects their respect for peace, honesty, water and beauty. The Dai people believe in Hinayana. In the scripture, the Peacock Rajas (Bright King) is a Bodhisattva flying on a peacock, with lotus and peacock tail in hand. Therefore, the Dai people love peacocks, tame peacocks and dance the Peacock Dance.

Peacock Dance is usually performed by one, two or three people. The dance has certain fixed elements, such as imitating a peacock flying from its nest, watching with sharp, expressive eyes, strolling naturally, looking for and drinking water, playing in the water, bathing, shaking and sunning its wings, spreading its tail to vie with other creatures, and flying freely in the sky.

The movements of the dance are quite diverse. The most common hand gestures include tucking the thumb under with the four fingers extended close together, "peacock hand" (the thumb slightly tucked, the index finger bent and the other three fingers spread in a fan shape), and the "eye" gesture (the thumb and index finger close to each other and the other three fingers spread in a fan shape to imitate the shape of an eye). 

Peacock Dance takes three forms: peacock, peahen and peachick. The peacock dance is the most popular among the Dais. In performing the dance, the leg is bent and stretched forcefully and the body twists sharply.

The peahen dance is mostly performed by men. the knee is slowly raised and lowered. The dance is graceful and refined, usually coupling a thrust of the chest and a turn of the shoulder to denote subtlety. The drumbeat is slow and light.

The peachick dance features quick shivering movements, steps in a half squat and a light shrug of the shoulders. The drumbeat is quick and deft.