Dr. Tran Tan Vinh

The Cotu, residing in the Truong Son range, are an ethnic minority that have maintained a unique cultural heritage that includes brocade weaving and traditional costumes. Cotu outfits, especially those worn by women, are as brightly colored as the local mountain flowers, thanks to their bead-woven patterns. Of all motifs on their costumes, the ancient dance of Da da, also known as “the dance of offering to the heavens,” conveying the hope for an abundant rice harvest, is the most prominent.

The dance of offering to the heavens in front of the village house of the Cotu

“The dance of offering to the heavens” of the Cotu is performed during community festivals. To the sounds of drums and gongs, women enter the courtyard of the village house and start dancing first, followed by men. If there are many dancers, two concentric circles are formed, women in the inner circle and men in the outer circle, representing a sense of protection. There is a harmonious combination of women’s and men’s dances. While women perform da da, men perform tan tung, creating a complete dance formation known as Tan tung da da. Everyone dances in a circle and steps counterclockwise to the vibrant beat of drums and gongs that awaken the sleeping mountain.

This dance is portrayed vividly and artfully on brocades and traditional costumes by Cotu weavers. The pattern of Da da is often decorated on dresses of women and girls as well as loincloths of men and boys. Adept at the a rac (bead) weaving technique, Cotu craftspeople place white beads onto the rough surface of a black fabric, forming the Da da pattern. The motif of Da da is also often found on the tails of men’s loincloths since these are ideal flat surfaces for the mobile painting to be seen from both the front and the back when men wear them along with precious jewelry made of agate and fangs at festivals.

Da dá pattern

 Similar patterns to Cotu’s Da da can be observed on other ethnic minority costumes such as those of the Ma and Ko Ho (Southern Central Highlands) and Xtieng (South Eastern Region). Ma and Ko Ho ethnic minorities have invented various unique patterns, particularly dancing figures, as decorations on their white cotton pro pullover worn by both men and women. Motifs of people and frogs decorate the costumes of E De (Central Highlands). The similarity in decorative motifs among ethnic minorities reflects cross-cultural influences, exchanges and acculturation dating back to ancient times.

Like a gorgeous wild flower, the pattern of Da da has indeed adds aesthetic and meaningful values to the Cotu’s legacy of traditional costumes. Their particular culture is perfectly condensed in the pattern, the colors and language of shapes. For that reason, the Cotu’s dance was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage in 2014.