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Fire dance heats up festive season

A traditional fire dance of the Red Dao ethnic minority group in the northern province of Dien Bien has been restored after 20 years thanks to efforts made by the provincial museum, local authorities, elders and researchers.

The fire dance aims to bring warmth, celebrate the harvest season, and pray to the gods for prosperity, good health and luck.

Strong men aged between 18 and 60 "approved" by the fire god perform the dance.

There are over 6,000 Dao people residing in the province, accounting for about 1 percent of the province’s population. They live mostly in districts of Muong Nhe, Nam Po and Tua Chua. They include Dao Do, Dao Quan Chet and Dao Khau, who can be differentiated by their costumes.

In Huoi Sau Village, Nam Po district, there are 430 Dao people living in difficult conditions, but they still maintain their traditional costumes and festivals.

Dao Do (Red Dao) in the village welcome spring in January, when they organise fire dancing rituals.

Before the ceremony, a ritual is held for the gods. Offerings include a big pig, ten cocks, firewood, incense, water, rice wine and eight gongs.

When the ceremony is over, the men dance on the burning coals many times after being given special power by the shaman.

The dancers show off their strength, skills and agility, much to the audiences’ delight. The ritual only ends when the coals cool off under the dancers’ feet.

Other folk dances are also performed at the ritual.

The fire dance of the Red Dao community symbolises human’s power over nature, bravery and a belief in helping one another.

The ritual faded among the community over the integration period, but now local authorities want to revive it.