Nearly every dance form originally had a ritual purpose and some hoped-for supernatural effect. Going through a ceremonial ritual was one of the ways to reach spiritual tranquility and dance and music were used to complete the ritual. Today, many folk dances are performed as part of a life-cycle or seasonal ceremony, to give thanks and to remember the ancestors.
Tari Rakyat represents a wide spectrum of dance, from ancient trance dances performed in conjunction with religious ceremonies to social dances devised last week in Bandung nightspots. Two influences on this type of dance bear mention: pencak silat, Sundanese martial arts; and ronggeng or sinden, professional female entertainers who sing and dance, not only at public and private festivities, such as weddings and circumcisions, but also to attract crowds at the beginning of dance dramas (wayang).
Ronggeng originally entertained the aristocracy; later the practice, believed to have existed as early as the eighth or ninth centuries, became common everywhere. Thus, in West Java many folk dance forms are customarily performed by professional entertainers.