Tor Tor Dance: Enlightenment, Encouragement and Entertainment

Tor Tor DanceI thought it’s been long time since I didn’t hear that Malaysia claims Indonesian things as its own again. But few days ago, I had to hear such news again, that our neighbor has decided to acknowledge Tor Tor dance and Paluan Gondang Sambilan musical instrument from North Sumatra as its own national heritage.

Why does this happen again? Whose fault it is? Malaysia who is too provocative but used to be orderly in archiving its cultural heritages? Indonesia who is rich of cultures but don’t have the systematic habit to formalize its own?

I choose to blame no one. But admit it, this is our weakness, Indonesian people. We think that we know our cultures, but in fact we have no idea. From 230 million of Indonesia citizens, how many people recognize Tor Tor dance?

So, I come up with a simple idea: how if we now look this dance closer? Let’s fly to the Batak land to meet the real, native Tor Tor dance.

Did you know, the word “Tor Tor” is derived from the pounding sound of the dancers foot on board of Batak traditional house. The dancers move on a rhythmic gondang that usually amounted to nine. Gondang (some say gordang) instrument itself perform such a stomping music.

Sometime, there are also trumpet hobo, flute, and a chanter called Maronang Onang. He sing the poems about histories, prayers, or blessings, depends of the event. While for the costume, Tor Tor dancers wear Batak traditional tissue: ulos.


Tor Tor dance was previously used in ritual associated with spirits. The spirits are summoned and enter the stone statue, then the statue moves like dancing in stiff movement. It just moves the feet and hands like that, as the Tor Tor dancers’ movement.

Then, Tor Tor dance develops, not only related to the spirits. Here some types of Tor Tor dance:

  • Tor Tor Pangurason (cleanup dance)
    This type of Tor Tor is usually held in a large party, where the place is cleaned first by using lime to avoid danger.
  • Tor Tor Sipitu Cawan (seven bowls dance)
    It’s usually held in king’s coronation ceremony. This dance also came from seven princesses from heaven who took a bath in a lake on the top of Pusuk Buhit Mountain, similar with the arrival of piso sipitu sasarung (seven knifes wrapped).
  • Tor Tor Tunggal Panaluan (single panaluan)
    It’s usually held in a village that was hit by a disaster. The tunggal panaluan is danced by a shaman to get the problem solution. The single panaluan stick itself is a united of the power from Debata Natolu or upper world, middle-earth, and lower world.

Beside those three, Tor Tor dance is also held in religion ritual to pray for God. It’s still practiced by those who follow the ancient belief. They hope God always bless them and as a gratitude for the big harvest.

Above all, Tor Tor dance is the main part of Batak ethnic’s life. Although Bataknese is divided to some folks, Tor Tor dance is still the main part of their tradition. It means, we can find Tor Tor dance in every branch of Batak, of course with some different types and purposes. However, generally, Tor Tor dance performs for three E: enlightenment (ritual), encouragement (spirit), or entertainment (exhibition). That’s it.

That’s what I know about Tor Tor dance. You might know better. Share to us, please. [Photo by Hera Khaerani,]

Posted in culture | Tagged | 2 Replies

About Rie Yanti

Has a bachelor degree from Padjadjaran University in French Literature Studies. She has been writing since her childhood and has produced both short stories and poetry. Rie loves writing about animals and small things that happen in her life. She has published three books, Satin Merah (GagasMedia 2010), Bukan Manusia (Lulu 2011), game Precious Time (Nusa Project 2017), et cetera.

2 Replies to “Tor Tor Dance: Enlightenment, Encouragement and Entertainment”

  1. Brahmanto Anindito

    Indonesia akan mendaftarkan Tor Tor ke UNESCO Maret 2013. 🙂 Udah hujan, baru repot cari payung. Tp, lumayan lah. Sisi positifnya: Malaysia berhasil “mendidik” Indonesia utk terbiasa rapi dan formal.


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