Borneo Hornbill Festival began with the humble Ethnic Dance Showcase in 2008 which was held at Universiti Malaya Auditorium. The cultural showcase was Persatuan Warisan Sarawak's first event after it's formation in the late 2007. There was no competition held during the event, which was called Hornbill Festival 2008 back then.
The dance showcase was not organized in 2009 due to insufficient funds and workforce. Furthermore, the organizer had to focus on organizing their first Ethnic pageant, called the Kumang and Keling Hornbill Festival 2009.
In 2010, after gaining experience in both dance showcase and ethnic pageant, Borneo Hornbill Festival was one step closer to becoming a full fledged cultural showcase of Sarawak and Sabah culture, featuring ethnic dance from both countries of Borneo which formed Malaysia in 1963, together with Malaya and Singapore.
Both segments of the 2010 festival was done in competition style, where participants give their very best to win cash prizes and trophies. While the ethnic pageant witnessed a bevy of Sarawak beauties, each called Kumang and a band of warriors, each called Keling, the Ethnic Dance Competition witnessed heart stopping choreography routines from troupes of dedicated and passionate dancers.
The Ethnic Dance Competition saw better participation in 2011 as dancers came from all over Malaysia and Kalimantan Indonesia, which was represented by dancers who made up the team Anak Borneo, together with a few Sarawakians and Sabahans. Participants were required to perform for two categories of ethnic dances of Borneo. One is the Original Ethnic (Etnik Asli) and the other Ethnic Compilation (Rampaian Etnik). The grand prize for the champion included a trip to Japan and this made the competition even stiffer.
In 2012, the Ethnic Dance competition continues with bigger and better performances delivered by participating troupes; some new, some came for the second or third time. The winning destination was Guang Zhou China.
In 2013, the competition continued with the introduction of a new category, Creative Ethnic (Etnik Kreatif) to replace Ethnic Compilation (Rampaian Etnik). This is to give more space for the troupes to explore their options in creativity to make ethnic dances more interesting and appealing to the younger generations. Costumes must be of original Borneo Ethnic and the choreography must be inspired by Borneo Ethnic dance routines or activities of the Borneo Natives such as paddy planting and harvest, fishing, hunting, healing and cleansing rituals or tribal war dances during the olden days. For all presentations, it is important that the teams provide useful synopsis details to help the audience and judges understand and appreciate their performances, especially for the Creative Ethnic Dances. The winning destination for 2013 was Jakarta & Bandung.
The year 2014 saw the same categories put to the test on stage. Original Ethnic and Creative Ethnic categories kept the audience at the edge of their seats with color and drama literally flying on stage. The winning destination of 2014 was Bali.
In 2015 and 2016, the categories were Original Ethnic and Drama Tari Etnik
With the date for Ethnic Dance 2017 coming even closer, the organizer looks forward to presenting the best Borneo has to offer.
All the best to everyone.