Author Archive
Folk Dance

Tinikling

Nicholas Virtue is a student at Quartz Hill High School and has participated in the tinikling dance team for two years. The Multicultural Club at QHHS hosts an assembly annualy, in which a variety of dances and cultural experiences from countries around the world are made available are performed for students. Some examples of performances have been hispanic dances, bollywood, tae kwon doe and karate. The tinikling dance team was put together for this assembly, and their performance is considered the most anticipated and well-loved of the assembly. Although he had no Filipino background, Nic started to participate in this dance his freshman year of high school, at 15 years old. Nic described the performance of the QHHS tinikling dance team at the Multicultural Assembly to me.

Tinikling is a Filipino dance, using 4 pairs of approximately 6 foot long bamboo poles. Each pair of sticks is used by two clappers and three dancers. The clappers clap the sticks together, keeping a steady beat throughout the song while dancers dance through them. It is perceived has a dangerous dance, because any fault could result in the bamboo sticks clapping on feet and injuring them.

The music has a ¾ time signature and no lyrics. Nic described their song as upbeat, using high stringed instruments. He also observed that the noise from clapping the sticks fits into the song, and becomes a part of it. About halfway through the song it begins to get faster, making it more and more challenging for clappers and dancers. The QHHS tinikling team wears the same clothes every year for the Multicultural Assembly performance. No one wears shoes or socks, either during rehearsal or performance. Guys wear red slims rolled up to the knee, a white v neck, and a red bandana around the neck. Girls wear a white v neck as well, but with no bandana. They each wear either green or red skirts, depending on their role in the dance. Typically, there is a different choreography for “girl 1” and “girl 2,” and the color of their skirt depends on their role in the dance.

Since the song is in ¾ time the clappers hit the sticks on the ground beats one and two, then clap them together on beat three. Consequently, the dancers must have their foot out of the sticks on beat three, otherwise they could be injured; leaving them time to dance between the sticks on beats one and two. Some of the basic dance moves include the single, half turn, full turn and front and back. Singles move dancers from one side of sticks to the other. Half turns rotate dancers 180 degrees and to the other side of the sticks. Full turns are complete 360 degree spins. Front and backs take 6 beats to complete, going to one side then back again, leaving the dancer on the same side of the sticks.

While dancers are responsible for their moves through the sticks, clappers are responsible for the movement of the sticks themselves. Stick transitions involve clappers and sometimes even the dancers to move sticks to different formations and have people dancing through the sticks while it is happening, or immediately after the transition is completed. For the most recent Multicultural Assembly, the tinikling team used 4 pairs of sticks, making the plus formation, a square, “ the death box” which resembles a hashtag and was described as the most dangerous and injury-infliction formation, and “the soul train” where all sticks are parallel to each other.

As a clapper, one of Nic’s favorite parts is stick passing. Executed in the plus formation, the inside clappers set down one of their sticks to the person on their right side, who would grab that stick and drag it across, while the outside clapper throws the stick to them (their left). The same thing is repeated in reverse, and sticks are passed in the opposite direction as inside clappers pass to their left and outside clappers throw to their right. All the while, dancers dance between the sticks and jump over them when they are thrown. As complicated as stick passing is to explain, it is even more so to learn and execute. It takes a heightened degree of teamwork to accomplish stick passing successfully. After stick passing, which occurs at the end of the routine during the quickening tempo, the each clapper lifts up the right stick, making four X formations for the final pose.

Nic exemplified the connection a clapper has to their set of sticks by describing each set and labeling one as his own. As stated previously, QHHS used four sets of sticks with four different qualities. Each set was marked with a different color duct tape, blue, red, yellow and white; possibly emulating the colors of the Filipino flag. Blue sticks are the heaviest, and the ones Nic claimed as his own, yellow are the most awkward with one stick too small and the other too large, red are the straightest and most comfortable and white are the lightest. This helps dancers and clappers know which sticks are theirs as they practice with them throughout the year. Nic said having his own set of sticks gave him a personal connection and reminded him of his part in the dance. Each set of sticks brings together a set of two clappers and three dancers (one boy and two girls) as they work together to prepare for the assembly.

Nic began tinikling his freshman year because he had heard it was a fun group of people. His desire to develop community and make friends drew him to tinikling, despite his lack of Filipino background. The challenges and high stakes of tinikling draw the community together in order to achieve their goal and perform at the assembly. Some of the stick transitions and dances require teamwork, exemplified by “the death box.” During this transition, two sets of clappers flip their sticks over the heads of the other two sets of clappers, laying their sticks in a hashtag across each other. The dancers then enter into this box, one after another. If clappers do not transition correctly or clap in time, or if the dancers hesitate and don’t enter the box on the correct beat, not only is the dance move ruined, but there is a high change of head or foot injury. The high stakes motivate dancers and clappers to work together, developing community along the way.

The following video is the QHHS Tinikling team at the 2013 Multicultural Assembly. The video with the opening choreography. Then the dancers and clappers switch positions and there is a transition from the plus stick formation to a square formation.

Quartz Hill High School Tinikling

Adulthood
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Humor

Ring by Spring

Allison attended Azusa Pacific University, a Christian college located in Southern California. During orientation her freshman year, she encountered a phenomenon called “ring by spring.” The idea is that women who enter college should or will be engaged by the spring of thei senior year. It’s presented in as a joking tone, as a caricature of a crazed woman who must get engaged before she graduates from college. This co-aligns with the idea that women go to college to get an “MRS degree,” in other words, they attend university to find a husband and get married.

Although “ring by spring” is presented as a joke, it is a common enough occurrence that the joke has weight in the community. My sister noted that 3 of the 20 girls in her graduating class of social work at APU were indeed engaged. If a girl does in fact get engaged just before graduation, she may get a lot of grief from her peers because of this widely circulated joke.

Allison pondered the weight the joke has in guy culture at APU, but she didn’t have any insight into guy’s reactio the the phenomenon.

This idea and joke is widely heard in a Christian context. Allison first encountered this idea at a Christian university and has since heard other accounts from other Christian environments like Biola University. In fact, in my Christian sorority at USC, Alpha Delta Chi, there are currently 4 girls who are engaged and graduating now. In a Christian atmosphere like APU or Biola, girls and guys who share the same ideals and believe in the same things are in close proximity. “Ring by spring” is an acknowledgment of the fact that one might meet their spouse in such a context, and it might not be a bad idea to be looking for one.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Lord’s Prayer- Armenian

Hayr Mer, vor hergines yes,
soorp yeghitsi anoon ko.
Yegestse arkayootyoon ko.
Yeghitsin gamk ko
vorbes hergines yev hergri.
Ez-hats mer hanabazort
dour mez aysor.
Yev togh mez ezbardis mer,
vorbes yev mek toghoomk merots bardabanats.
Yev mee danir ezmez ee portsootyoon,
ayl pergya ee charen.
Zee ko eh arkayootyoon
yev zorootyoon
yev park havidyanes.
Amen.

 

This is the Lord’s Prayer in Armenian, usually performed in song. Allison identifies herself as Christian and attends the “United Armenian Congregational Church” in Hollywood, known to be the biggest Armenian church in the US. The church plays a big role in her family life. Her grandparents and parents met and got married that the “United Armenian Congregational Church.” Every Sunday the family meets after church to go out to lunch, giving them an opportunity to gather and spend time together.

Allison described the importance of faith in her and her family’s life and as it relates to their Armenian culture. Armenia was the first Christian nation, and although only a small percentage of Armenia is Christian now, religion remains important to their family and reminds them of their cultural background. Each church service has one sermon in Armenian and the other in English. There are translators, and although Allison is not fluent in Armenian, she recognizes a few words and is able to learn more. Her family travels annually to Armenia on a medical missions trip. When they arrive, songs are sung to them, including The Lord’s Prayer. Allison appreciates this gesture, because the fact that the same prayer is said both in Armenia and at her home church in the US gives her a sense of connection between her community in the US and the nation it stems from.

Annotation

The Lord’s Prayer is in the Bible, the book of Matthew, Chapter 6, Verses 9-13. The following is the New International Version’s translation of the passage, in English. For an easy viewing of this verse, as well as many others in many translations, visit http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+6%3A9-13&version=NIV.

 9“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

 

Customs
Foodways

Siestas- Ecuadorian

Angie spent the summer of 2011 in Ecuador in to visit family, do “touristy things” and study the language. She already knew some things about the language because she had studied for four years with a professor who had lived in Ecuador. She visited cities and towns near the Andes, like the city Ambato and surrounding areas. She lived in Ambato, traveled to the Amazon twice, to the beach once and to the capital, Quito, once.

Angie learned the most about siestas in Ambato, where the downtown area would shut down almost completely between the hours of noon and two, called a siesta. (Angie noted a difference in pace between Ambato and Quito. While Ambato was more laid back, Quito was very fast-paced and reminded her more of an American town, generally without siestas.) Businesses in the city would close down, leaving open only cafes where families would gather to eat. Siestas are not as much about napping as they are about eating and spending time with family. Both food and family are very important aspects of Ecuadorian culture. Ecuador has a very family-oriented culture, with big, multi- generational families. During siesta, smaller units of families gather together to eat. Food is a very important export of Ecuador, with bananas, bread and roses being their main ones. It is even present on their crest. Lunch is the biggest meal in Ecuador. People get the most sustenance from lunch, eating meats and heartier foods in the afternoon. Dinner consists of fruit, bread and coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Angie also observed that people generally don’t return home until past midnight.

The importance of food is evident in Ecuador, as it instructs their pace of life and allows families to join together.

Material

Ponchos- Ecuadorian

Angie spent the summer of 2011 in Ecuador in to visit family, do “touristy things” and study the language. She already knew some things about the language because she had studied for four years with a professor who had lived in Ecuador. She visited cities and towns near the Andes, like the city Ambato and surrounding areas. She lived in Ambato, traveled to the Amazon twice, to the beach once and to the capital, Quito, once.

Traditional garb in Ecuador consists of ponchos and pants for the men and wraps and skirts for the women. One can tell what community a person belonged to based on the color and style of their clothing. Many different tribes live in the Amazon and many in the Andes, each with their own color and style.

Women make ponchos for their sons as a coming-of-age gift. Angie would see women carrying large containers of sheep’s wool around with them throughout the day, meticulously constructing thread. Sheep’s thread is much more expensive than alpaca thread, so while tourist ponchos are generally made of alpaca thread and cost around $20, women make their sons sheep thread ponchos at a value of about $100. In addition, women go to great lengths to dye and treat the wool so that it is waterproof. This is a coming-of-age gift because the boys begin to represent their culture by wearing the poncho. Because so much time and effort goes into making these ponchos, they generally last the boys a very long time.

Angie noted some other interesting things regarding clothing in Ecuador. Although she doesn’t remember the exact styles, single and married women would wear their wraps differently, as a sign of modesty. Also, she saw a group of children in a playground- some were wearing ponchos and some were wearing very Americanized clothing.

These Ecuadorian tribes that Angie met put a lot of their identity into their traditional clothing. Based on colors and style, one can observe an individual’s community or marital status. This is a very outward, very public display of one’s identity.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Foodways
Holidays

Toffee Making

During the Christmas season my family bakes toffee. As I was growing up, I learned how to make it from my mother every year. I asked her about the act and meaning behind our families’ tradition.

My grandmother (my mother’s mother) brought the recipe to my mother about 10 years ago. As I suspected, she wouldn’t share the recipe with me because it is top-secret. The details she would share were that the recipe contained butter, sugar, almonds and chocolate. My grandmother received the recipe from a friend, who my mother decided should remain anonymous. This friend normally wouldn’t share her toffee recipe with anyone, but since she and my grandmother became such close friends, she eventually gave it to her. My grandmother brought it back to my mother and throughout the years, they tweaked it to make it their own. It is now the top-secret recipe that it is today.

In addition to being top-secret, the event of toffee making is highly ritualized. Some of the ritual is required for the recipe to be successful. For example, the mixture has to be stirred over the stove for 12 minutes, using a candy thermometer or, for more experienced toffee makers, watching the smoke rising from the pot to see when its done. Later, the mixture must be poured, smoothed down and covered with chocolate very quickly. However, some rituals during the process are not scientifically supported to be significant but are practiced due to the sacred, secret nature of the process. For eight years, my mother and grandmother used the same stove, the same pot and the same spoon to stir the toffee. Eventually the stove and spoon broke and the two were afraid that the recipe would no longer work. The toffee still turns out well, but they still use the same pot, with some speculation to making any more changes. My mother clearly defined a successful batch of toffee by its nice crunch and snap. If the toffee doesn’t snap right when its broken in half, the toffee wasn’t mixed for long enough or at high enough temperature so the sugar didn’t set right.

The activity of toffee-making has become a family tradition. My grandmother comes over a few times every December so she and her daughter can bake toffee together. At age eight, the kids (my siblings and I) were trusted to help with the process. The kids would be in charge of stirring the toffee consistently for 12 minutes; not the most exciting task, but it was a way to include younger kids in the process. Although she takes the toffee-making process itself very seriously, she commented on how enjoyable and laughter-filled it can be.

I asked my mother the importance of keeping the recipe a secret. Her logic is that it she wanted to keep it special; a special recipe makes a special gift. Our family hands out this toffee as gifts to friends and family. Because we are the only family who makes the toffee, it produces a demand and makes people appreciative. When people receive the toffee, they recognize that it is only around at Christmas time, and only from us.

Regarding the significance of only gifting toffee at Christmas time, my mother said that it gives friends and family an anticipation and expectation annually. It is a seasonal event, not only for the receiving end, but for the gifting end as well. My mother explained that she will make toffee apart from Christmas only for very special occasions. If a relative that we don’t see very often is coming into town at a time other Christmas, she will make toffee for them. When her sister came to California in November recently, she made toffee. However, she explained that it didn’t feel right without the Christmas music and Christmas aprons. The context of the performance of this folklore is important to her. As a joke, she also mentioned how unhealthy toffee is, so it’s best that it is only eaten once a year.

My mother mentioned that her great grandfather apparently made toffee and candies in Chicago. Although she didn’t have any emotional or personal connection to her great grandfather and his business, she draws a part of her identity from this family history of making toffee.

general
Material

Claddagh Ring

This Irish ring is made up of a heart, held by two hands, under a crown. The heart represents love, the crown represents loyalty and the hands represent friendship.

Siobhan owns one of these rings and identifies it as Irish folklore. Just as narratives are weaved into the designs of dresses or dances (see Irish Dance Competitions entry), symbolism is weaved into the caladdagh ring, a piece of material folklore.

Customs
Folk Dance
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Irish Dance Competitions

Siobhan was very active in Irish Dancing from age 5 to age 18. She described a typical dance competition to me.

The two most common kinds of dances are soft shoe, or the reel, and hard shoe. Soft shoe dances are bouncy and fast paced. They use leather shoes, that criss cross at the front. Hard shoe dances like the horn pipe are danced using trebles and clicks. Trebles are when the dancer brushes their foot backwards and forwards and clicks are when the dancer hits their heels together to make a clicking noise.

Siobhan described a couple of narratives that were represented through choreography. A group dance represented the weaving of an Irish cloth. Another dance features boy and girl pairings and centers around Irish women and their sailor husbands who are leaving for sea.

The competitors are judged on technique, energy and stamina. Judges look to see that the soft and hard shoe dances are properly executed, like the “turn out” with feet crossed over and turned in. Dancers must maintain energy, exhibited by high jumping and high kicks. Although the dances are generally short, they take endurance, so stamina is another category to be judged.

The music they dance to is typically live music consisting of accordions, fiddles and keyboards. The music is lively, fluid and constant throughout the competition.

Irish dresses typically have Celtic designs, each with its own unique narrative behind it. However, Siobhan has noticed a trend in competitions recently to stray from the natural and traditional and towards a beauty pageant atmosphere. Girls now have sequined dresses and wigs instead of traditional Celtic designs and natural curly hair.

Local competitions are usually held in ballrooms of hotels, with a stage set up near the front. Regional or national competitions are held in larger hotels with multiple ballrooms or convention centers. World competitions are held in either Ireland or Scotland and occasionally in the US.

Audience members include families of dancers, dance teachers, other students from dance schools of Irish dance and any interested public in the area.

Siobhan noted that Irish dance is not exclusive to ethnically Irish individuals. She has met Asian, African American and South African people at Irish dance competitions. Siobhan noted that the experience fostered a sense of diversity.

Legends
Narrative

Legend- Irish Dancing

Siobhan was very active in Irish Dancing from age 5 to age 18. She explained the legend about the origin of Irish dance:

 

“I’m not sure if this is like proven or whatever, but I think like the um discussed cause of Irish Dancing is um… like Irish people in their houses, there was a rule that they couldn’t dance and it was like, the English monarchy or whatever was like ‘Yea, you can’t dance’ and like had rules for it. So like the Irish people were… they would like keep this upright posture so that if you look in the window it looked like they weren’t dancing, but their feet would just be like dancing, and they’d be dancing with each other. So that’s like, where the really rigid posture came about and that’s like stayed in Irish dance. It’s like flying feet everywhere but you have this rigid posture the whole time. So that’s…. where the roots come from.”

 

With this narrative in mind, Irish dance may be a source of national pride for Irish people, as it distinguishes them from the English. Not only is it an attempt to explain the aesthetics of the dance, including fast-paced foot movement with a rigid, upright posture, but it explains national ties.

Game
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Band Names- Trojan Marching Band

The Trojan Marching Band (TMB), otherwise known as The Spirit of Troy and The Greatest Marching Band in the History of the Universe, is the marching band at the University of Southern California. The band plays for the university’s sports teams, especially involved in football games, promoting school spirit and acting as a source of entertainment. The TMB has a culture of its own, teeming with tradition. Being in the band myself, I gathered four of my friends to discuss these traditions. Mishan is a junior, Angie is a sophomore and AJ and Travis are freshman, all in the clarinet section.

 

When freshman enter into the band, each is given a band name by the older members. My informants likened the tradition to pledge names of fraternities and sororities. The tradition is an initiation ritual, showing that the freshman is being accepted into the wider group of the TMB. All sections give their freshman band names, unifying the TMB as a whole.

The names are given a few weeks into the marching season so older members have an opportunity to analyze the freshmen personalities and give them a fitting name. I asked my informants their names and why they think they received them.

 

Mishan’s band name is “punxsutawney phil.” Mishan is generally a quiet person, so as a freshman, whenever he said something the older members saw it as if he was “coming out of his hole.” Mishan is Sri lankan, and says that another association he makes with his name is that he’s brown.

Travis’ band name is “squakward tentacles.” Although he is not sure exactly there this name came from, he guessed it was because he was awkward. At this point in the interview, Mishan and Angie reminded him that he was an awkward dancer and that he flailed his limbs like tentacles. Travis added that he liked the television show Spongebob Squarepants, so his name has an association with Squidward, the clarinet playing, tentacle- possessing character of the show.

Angie’s band name is “once upon a time… in ecuador.” Angie explained that the summer before her freshman year she went on a trip to Ecuador. When she returned, her excitement about her trip mixed with her natural tendency to tell stories meant that she talked about Ecuador a lot. She recalls being teased a lot for her zealousness, and her band name was an extension of this.

AJ’s band name is “air bud.” His reasoning was “I guess I’m like a dog… kind of.”; a response which Travis deemed as exactly what a dog would have said.

 

There are various traditions associated with band names, including Laps (see entry) and Name Jokes. This tradition is performed when someone asks “Who are you?” The individual responds with their band name. Then they are asked “Why?” To be deemed an acceptable answer, the response must be offensive, sexual or really funny. I asked my informants to tell a name joke based on their name, but none of them were able to.

The fact that none of my informants were willing to think of a name joke during our interview is evident of the unique culture and atmosphere surrounding the TMB and that there is a specific time and place for the performance of this folklore

[geolocation]