The ‘Ngajat Lesung’ is one of the famous dances in Sarawak. This is an Iban traditional dance and is believed to have been performed by warriors on their return from battles. This dance is now performed to celebrate the most important harvest festival called ‘Gawai’, to welcome important guests to the longhouses. In this dance, the knees are bent and kept close together as they twist from side to side, ending with a simple tap of the heel on the ground.
The arms move from left to right in front of the body. The dance is done gracefully. Apparently, the hornbill, an iconic bird of Sarawak, inspires all the movements. The male dancer in this dance represents the warrior who shows off his strength by biting a wooden mortar called the ‘lesung kayu’ with his teeth while dancing. It weighs about seven kilogrammes.
The male dancers wear feathers as part of their headgear, hold an ornate and long shield in their hand with chains, beads and a loincloth called the ‘cawat’. The female dancers have an elaborate headdress, chains, beads and a ‘dress’ that reaches below their knees with intricate weaving. Gongs and other ethnic percussion instruments such as the ‘enkeromong’, ‘bendai’, ‘canang’ and ‘dumbak or ketebong’ provide the music.