efe-epaBlangkejeren, Indonesia

Thousands of people in Indonesia's northwestern Aceh province have proved there is a lot more to their traditions than the old song and dance.

In Blangkejeren, the capital of the heavily forested Gayo Lues Regency, the local government Sunday held one of the largest dance performances ever in Indonesia, drawing 12,262 dancers, the organizer told epa.

The dancers, most of whom were locals from the Gayo ethnic group, partook in the traditional Saman performance - 'the dance of 1,000 hands' - characterized by forms of clapping and singing.

The local government reportedly aimed to bring together 10,001 Saman dancers, with people tweeting about the event using the hashtag #Saman10001.

A total of 105 villages in the regency sent dancers to the event, and the government asked each village to send 500 people, while some districts sent 1,000, an epa journalist reported Tuesday.

Thousands of visitors from other parts of Indonesia flocked to Blangkejeren for Sunday's event, and some locals offered free accommodation at their homes after most hotels were booked up.

The actual dance ceremony was - compared to the half-day it took to prepare the soccer field for the show and the logistics of busing in the dancers - short and sweet, at only 30 minutes long.

Dancers, wearing orange and black Gayo attire with red and yellow woven headbands, sat down in the field according to their district, and a team leader, known as a Keh in Gayo, led groups of 15 dancers.

Once it kicked off, the seated dancers clapped their hands and smacked their chests rhythmically, and swung their heads forward and to the sides while chanting in Gayo - all in near-perfect synchronicity.

"This is amazing. This is the first time for me to be a leader for 12,000 people dancing the Saman. This is beyond my expectations," Ali Mudin, 42, a dance leader from Blangkejeren, told epa.

"In 2011 we did the same event but there were only 5,000 people there. Now it has become a huge event. This is a good way to promote my homeland to the world," said Mudin, who also works for the government as a cultural delegate for Gayo Lues and has performed Saman around the world.

Following the men-only performance, a group of women did the Vines (vee-ness) dance, similar to Saman but in smaller groups and lasts about 10 minutes.

Sunday's event was part of the larger "Save Local Ecosystems" campaign of Gayo Lues, which sits on parts of Gunung Leuser, a national park and biosphere reserve rich in biodiversity and forests comprising some 5.2 million hectares, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

However, the Leuser Ecosystem faces threats from deforestation, inadequate protection for rare wildlife such as Sumatran tigers, and illegal encroachment of palm oil plantations, according to the NGO Global Conservation.

The protection of the park would benefit the environment as well as the 4 million people who near or inside it and who depend on it for farming and water supplies, UNESCO added.