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Home » Old Batavia » Lenggang Nyai Dance: Jakarta's Elegant Dance fusing Betawi with Chinese culture

Lenggang Nyai Dance: Jakarta's Elegant Dance fusing Betawi with Chinese culture

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Beyond its modern and dynamic daily life as a metropolitan capital city, Jakarta still offers the authenticity of its indigenous Betawi culture. Aside from the vibrant performance of Ondel-ondel and the vigorous Pencak Silat martial art, the Betawi express the beauty of their culture through the art of Lenggang Nyai Dance.


Although it is a contemporarily created dance, the Lenggang Nyai dance has found its place as one of the icons  of Betawi culture. Nowadays there a number of other contemporary dances created based on  Betawi culture such as none tugu, kembang lambang sari, gejrug jidat, topeng tiga, bodoran, and lipet gandes, however Lenggang Nyai remains  the most popular.


The dance itself combines choreographies from the Cokek and the Topeng (Mask) Dances with a touch of Chinese influences. The Lenggang Nyai dance is usually performed by a group of 4 to 6 young ladies. The dance features dynamic movements of bodies, hands, and feet of the dancers who gracefully move from one side to the other. The main musical accompaniment of the dance is Jakarta’s traditional Gambang Kromong music , collaborated with modern musical instruments such as the Jimbe, Saxophone, and electric  Bass. The costume for the dancers has a mix of Betawi and Chinese elements; featuring bright colors of green and red and a distinct Chinese headband.


Created in 1998 by Wiwik Widiastuti, a choreographer from Yogyakarta, the dance portrays both gracefulness and vivacious movements of Betawi’s young ladies. The dance is based on the popular Betawi folktale of Nyai Dasima (Miss Dasima). The dance itself is based on the character of Nyai Dasima who is known to have been a beautiful, spry, and kind hearted woman. The Lenggang in Betawi and Bahasa Indonesia itself refers to graceful swaying steps.


The story of Nyai Dasima is a popular folktale that portrays the life of a Betawi commoner during the Dutch colonization era. The story goes that Nyai Dasima was faced with a difficult choice between marrying a Dutchman or a local Betawi. She eventually made up her mind to marry the Dutch Edward William. However, instead of happiness, she experienced a harsh life filled with confining rules set by her husband. Eventually Nyai Dasima rebelled against the injustice and managed to determine the course of her own life. The story was so moving that it inspired the choreography of Lenggang Nyai Dance.    

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Lenggang Nyai Dance: Jakarta's Elegant Dance fusing Betawi with Chinese culture

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