Themes / Cultural Heritage



Cultural Heritage


Dances inscribed in the UNESCO
Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity


A working document prepared by Alkis Raftis


The International Dance Council CID presents a list of dances recognized by UNESCO as part of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Dances are part of wider customs or rituals included either in the Representative List or the Urgent Safeguarding List. We have listed below only cultural manifestations where dance is a central part.

Each item includes:
- Name of dance or dance custom
- Year recognition was granted by UNESCO
- Countries concerned, in alphabetical order

For information of the dances below you can contact the CID Secretariat or CID Sections in the respective countries.
Representative List
The Tango (2009)
Argentina - Uruguay

Language, Dance and Music of the Garifuna (2008)

The Mask Dance of the Drums from Drametse (2008)

The Samba de Roda of the Recôncavo of Bahia (2008)

Nestinarstvo, messages from the past: the Panagyr of Saints Constantine and Helena in the village of Bulgari (2009)

Sbek Thom, Khmer Shadow Theatre (2008)

The Royal Ballet of Cambodia (2008)

Farmers’ dance of China’s Korean ethnic group (2009)

Tibetan opera (2009)

Kun Qu Opera (2008)

The Uyghur Muqam of Xinjiang (2008)

The Carnival of Barranquilla (2008)

Slovácko Verbu┼łk, Recruit Dances (2008)
Czech Republic

The Cocolo Dance Drama Tradition (2008)
Dominican Republic

The Baltic Song and Dance Celebrations (2008)
Estonia - Latvia - Lithuania

Language, Dance and Music of the Garifuna (2008)
Belize - Guatemala - Honduras - Nicaragua

Akiu no Taue Odori (2009)

Traditional Ainu dance (2009)

The Vimbuza Healing Dance (2008)

The Lakalaka, Dances and Sung Speeches of Tonga (2008)

The Mevlevi Sema Ceremony (2008)

The Mbende Jerusarema Dance (2008)

Urgent Safeguarding List

Mongol Biyelgee: Mongolian traditional folk dance (2009)
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In the text of the Convention
Article 2 – Definitions


14/17-03-2001, Turin: Round table of experts on "Intangible Cultural Heritage – Working Definitions"
20/23-10-2004, Nara: International Conference on « The Safeguarding of Tangible and Intangible Cultural...
According to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) – or living heritage – is the mainspring of our cultural diversity and its maintenance a guarantee for continuing creativity.

The Convention states that the ICH is manifested, among others, in the following domains:
Oral traditions and expressions including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;
Performing arts (such as traditional music, dance and theatre);
Social practices, rituals and festive events;
Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
Traditional craftsmanship.


The 2003 Convention defines ICH as the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage.

The definition also indicates that the ICH to be safeguarded by this Convention:

- is transmitted from generation to generation;
- is constantly recreated by communities and groups, in response to their environment, their interaction with nature, and their history;
- provides communities and groups with a sense of identity and continuity;
- promotes respect for cultural diversity and human creativity;
- is compatible with international human rights instruments;
- complies with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, and of sustainable development.

    The ICH is traditional and living at the same time. It is constantly recreated and mainly transmitted orally. It is difficult to use the term authentic in relation to ICH; some experts advise against its use in relation to living heritage (see the Yamato Declaration: English|French).

    The depository of this heritage is the human mind, the human body being the main instrument for its enactment, or – literally – embodiment. The knowledge and skills are often shared within a community, and manifestations of ICH often are performed collectively.

    Many elements of the ICH are endangered, due to effects of globalization, uniformization policies, and lack of means, appreciation and understanding which – taken together – may lead to the erosion of functions and values of such elements and to lack of interest among the younger generations.

    The Convention speaks about communities and groups of tradition bearers, without specifying them. Time and again it was stressed by the governmental experts who prepared the draft of the Convention that such communities have an open character, that they can be dominant or non dominant, that they are not necessarily linked to specific territories and that one person can very well belong to different communities and switch communities.

    The Convention introduces, by establishing the Representative List, the idea of “representativeness”. “Representative” might mean, at the same time, representative for the creativity of humanity, for the cultural heritage of States, as well as for the cultural heritage of communities who are the bearers of the traditions in question.
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See also the Preamble of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.