USC Digital Folklore Archives / Folk Dance
Folk Dance
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ferias Monucipilanas

Every city, every town, has a yearly party, feria monucipilanas, and each have their own saint in which they cherish and praise during the festival. The people of the city make a big tower that you light at the bottom of the tower so then the fireworks make really colorful designs upon explosion. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. These fairs seem like the walks that Catholics due in Los Angeles during Easter to acknowledge a saint.

Folk Dance

Festejo Dance

In an interview with my old dance teacher, he describes the traditional Peruvian Festejo Dance:

Interviewer: “What is one of the most famous dances in Peru?”

Informant: “Festejo is definitely one of the most popular dances because it’s so festive and has a good rhythm.   There’s a lot of African influence in the dance so the music is very procession heavy and theres a lot of movement in the hips.  One of the best parts of the dance is that it can be performed in a pair or in a big group, so it’s perfect for festivals and big celebrations!”

Interviewer: “What are the traditional costumes like?”

Informant: “Traditionally the women wear big colorful skirts and blouses and the men wear either colorful pants or a colorful shirt.  The major colors are the colors on the Peruvian flag: red, white, blue, and green.”

Interviewer: “What kind of music do they dance to?”

Informant: “It’s Afro-Peruvian music so there’s a lot of percussion.  The cajon box drum is an especially popular instrument to use when making music for Festejo dancing.”

Interviewer: “What are the origins of this dance?”

Informant: “It was brought over with the African slaves which sparked the African influence over Peruvian culture.  At first, the slaves were discriminated against and their culture was not blended with Peruvian culture until the 1950s when Peru wanted to distance themselves from their Spanish influence and create their own culture.”

Interviewer: “How did you learn about this type of dance?”

Informant: “My friend from Peru taught it to me.”

Analysis: The history of the Afro-Peruvian dance also shares the history of the Peruvian people and the immigration patterns of the area. This piece of folklore is important because it demonstrates how much of an influence African culture has on the region and how it did not have much of an influence until after 1950.  I especially enjoy this piece of folklore because I love dance and learning about how dance influences culture and vice versa.

Folk Dance


Original Script: Tarantella is a dance always performed Italian weddings, festivals, and celebrations. Tarantella was originated from Taranto, a small town in the southern Italy, at around 15th century. The legend of Tarantella is related to a poisonous tarantula spider. A lady was once bitten by the spider, and she fell into a trance. The only solution to save her was the crazy dance performed by other people encircling her. The instruments used in the performance are usually mandolin, guitar, and tambourines. Every beat of the music would have a different effect on the lady, and the people searched for the precise rhythm that could cure the lady by trying different beats and movements.



Folk Dance

Nae Nae

In popular culture, dance moves are all the rage. Popular, earworm-esque songs seem to produce dances that go alongside them more frequently than ever before. It is truly a testament to today’s youth and their creativity to make up and, more importantly, make viral these dance phenomena. Not everyone though is entertained with these seemingly childish forms of passing time. My informant, C, told me this when I, DP, asked him what he thought of these “folk dances” in a modern era.

DP: so how do you feel about these dances coming out from hip hop songs nowadays?

C: they’re trash man.

DP: what do you mean?

C: There’s no creativity. For example, take the Nae Nae.

DP: Man, the Nae Nae died out like 3 years ago, what more can you say?

C: Listen to this really quick: You do a hockey goalie stance. When the song says “watch me whip,” you will rotate and extend your right hand in front of you in a way that your hand goes from palmar to dorsal. When you “nae nae” you bring your right hand from the extended position, open hand, and bring it back and forth, allowing the motion of your arm to allow your trunk to move with it.

Jokes aside, this interviewer tends to agree with the informant. The merits of pop culture are definitely present, but when it comes to these repetitive and predictable applications like simple dances, they come across as contrived more than anything else.

*for another popular dance that has stemmed from a song, see Harlem Shake by Baauer*

Folk Dance

Irish Jig


TM is an accountant who was born in Sunnyside, WA and now is currently living in Bothell, WA. He descends from a heavy Irish and Italian background which have influenced much of his culture growing up. His grandparents were the ones to teach him the most about his culture through their traditions and common sayings.

What were some of the traditions that you remember about your Irish side of the family?

TM: I remember that every family reunion my grandfather would get dressed up to do a special dance. I know many people these days know what the Irish jig is but not as many people can do it anymore. They put on this kind of fiddle music and would tap their feet and make hilarious faces. My grandpa used to do it with some of the other members of the family and put on a show for us. As a kid, I thought it was pretty funny. Was there any special attire they wore or special music they played?

TM: Well my grandfather also used to do the jig on St. Patrick’s Day as well and he would dress up in all green with the kind of clothes a leprechaun would wear. It was super bright and festive. I think I may even have a picture of it. He used to love to put that outfit on and I thought about how funny he must have looked. Um… other than that I can’t think of anything particularly special they wore. As for the music, I can’t recall the name the songs I just know what they would have sounded like. It was pretty much what you would think of when you think of Irish folk music, very upbeat and about the fiddle.

Did you ever learn this dance yourself?

TM: No. It was always an older generation tradition that I guess no one younger really cared to learn and we all moved and got busy with our own lives. Sometimes I like to pretend I can but I don’t think it would be very good…

Analysis: Although the jig is no associated with popular or basic Irish folklore I believe it is still a very important part of culture. The jig is a funny and charismatic dance that is often associated with jokes and laughter. It brings joy to everyone in the room and would often be associated with family get togethers or parties. It is a very social and happy dance. Although not popularly practiced it still lives on in memories and is taught more in Ireland than here in America.

Folk Dance

Line Dancing

SP is a current student at California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo where she studies Geography and Anthropology. She is originally from Seattle, WA and grew up in a small town nearby. She grew up in a typical American middle-class family. She attended a public high school in Washington where she grew up with a sister and her mother and father. She has a background of being half-Mexican and half Irish/Italian that has in some ways heavily influenced her beliefs as well as her religious beliefs rooted in Catholicism.

Are there any traditions that are new you have come across that you just started to partake in, possibly at college?

SP: Well at Cal Poly I have recently started to go to line dancing with my friends. It is on Thursday nights in a small bar with an open dance floor. Around 100-200 people will go a night and it gets really hot and crowded but it is one of the most fun things I have done here. It is something you can go to with your friends even if you are a bad dancer.

What is it like? I have never been line-dancing and don’t know what the experience is like.

SP: Well line-dancing is a lot of steps and remembering the pattern. They always play the same songs and each song has a dance. Most of the regulars know all the dances from going so often so if you watch them for a while sometimes you will eventually be able to do it and try it. I am not very good so I can only pick up the slower or easier dances and even then, sometimes I mess up. They aren’t that serious so if you mess up you just laugh it off and keep going but some people are so good and never mess up. I am guessing those people have time to go every week and that’s how they can memorize it and get so good.

Why is this so popular or a tradition at Cal Poly?

SP: I think it is because a lot of people at Cal Poly like country music and dancing and drinking and at Line-Dancing you can do all of those at the same time with you friends. When I go, I like to go with a group of my friends that I can dance with and have fun with but still make a fool of myself. That’s why so many people at Cal Poly go, because it is fun and easy to go with a bunch of your friends.


Line-dancing is popular across the united states but it has died out in places that are not in the south for the most part. IT is making a revival and the small town of San Luis Obispo through college kids because college kids love dancing and most love music that is popular like country. The act of line-dancing is portrayed in many movies and television as people having a ton of fun in pre-choreographed dance that they just happen to be able to learn easily during the night. It doesn’t require as much precision or skill as other kinds of dance which makes it friendly to all people especially young people. It is interesting to see it growing in California, which is not known as a typical southern state.

Folk Dance
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sma Grordorna – Swedish Midsummer Celebration Song


Elliot Danielsson is a 21 year old man from Gothenburg, Sweden. This is his favorite folk song from his native Swedish culture. He also says that almost everyone in his town “and probably most of Sweden” knows this song and sings it during their Midsummer Celebration.

Folk Song:

Små grodorna, små grordorna

är lustiga att se.


Ej öron, ej öron, ej suansar

hava de.


What the song is about:

Elliot: “It’s…uh…kinda hard to give a straight translation, but it’s basically about…It’s small frogs without tails or ears, which makes their lives very difficult, but they are still full of joy and love dancing around a tree. It basically shows how even though we all may live tough lives, we can still live our lives with happiness and joy.”


Elliot: “It is most often performed at any celebration that whatever Swedish town is putting on the…uh…celebration. Kids, like, love singing it during the celebration, and adults join in too.”

My thoughts:

Elliot also added that this Midsummer Celebration is comparable to America’s Christmas in regards to popularity, and one of the biggest parts (and probably my favorite part) of our Christmas traditions is Christmas music. Therefore, this song that is connected with a major holiday is very interesting to me because I did not know that other cultures’ holidays also often had music that went along with them.

Folk Dance

Bat Masterson – Brazilian Wild West Song and Game


Ricardo is from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and currently lives there “for 75 percent of the year.”

Original Script:

No velho Oeste ele nasceu,
E entre bravos se criou,
Seu nome lenda se tornou,
Bat Masterson, Bat Masterson.

Sempre elegante e cordial,
Sempre o amigo mais leal,
Foi da justiça um defensor,
Bat Masterson, Bat Masterson.

Em toda canção contava,
Sua coragem e destemor,
Em toda canção falava,
Numa bengala e num grande amor.

É o mais famoso dos heróis,
Que o velho oeste conheceu,
Fez do seu nome uma canção,
Bat Masterson, Bat Masterson.

Seu nome lenda se tornou,
Bat Masterson, Bat Masterson.
Seu nome lenda se tornou,
Bat Masterson, Bat Masterson.


In the old West he was born,
And among brave ones was created,
His legendary name became,
Bat Masterson, Bat Masterson.

Always elegant and friendly,
Always the most loyal friend,
Justice was a defender,
Bat Masterson, Bat Masterson.

In every song,
His courage and fearlessness,
In every song he spoke,
On a cane and a great love.

It is the most famous of the heroes,
That the old West knew,
Made his name a song,
Bat Masterson, Bat Masterson.

His legendary name became,
Bat Masterson, Bat Masterson.
His legendary name became,
Bat Masterson, Bat Masterson.


Ricardo: “It’s sang all the time by kids, like, in class or in, like, a break in school because there is hand game that goes with it, but I totally forget how the game goes (laughs). It’s just a fun little thing for young kids to do when they have nothing to do.”

My Thoughts:

I can relate to this song very strongly because when I was younger, I loved playing patty cake with my older sister. Singing games are a great way to pass time when you are a kid, and it is interesting to me that other cultures practice this as well.

Folk Dance

The Stanky Leg

Main piece: The stanky leg is a dance for smooth hip hop. What you do is you you leave one of your legs still and you bring the other leg close to that one by bending you knee. You start alternating legs and it will look like you are smooth and going with the flow. You can also bring you hands in the mix, waving them around in free flowing motion.

Background information about the piece by the informant: Troy is from Detroit, Michigan, where hip hop is a large part of the musical scene. This move is a classic when dancing to hip hop, and it has been popular since the genre’s origins in America. It’s partly based on the moves of Rock and Roll figures like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley, but has been adapted to have a more relaxed look to it that fits the tune of smooth hip hop.

Context on the piece: The stanky leg is usually performed in a hip hop dance party when the music gets slow, and it has the purpose of seduction. Men usually dance the stanky leg to smooth hip hop to show themselves as relaxed and smooth, something that they think the females of the dances will notice and appreciate. It is meant to make women comfortable with the relaxed feeling, and this can lead to them getting close to the women and asking to dance with them. Sometimes, the roles are inverted with the women dancing the stanky leg to captivate the men, but its usually the males doing it. It can also be danced with no intentions of seduction just to feel more relaxed during the dancing session, and it is common that lone stanky leg dancer consume inhibiting drugs such as cannabis to help them with the relaxed motion of the dance.

Thoughts on the piece: Even though Hip Hop is a fairly modern brand of music, this dance move shows that the genre still follows many of the traditions of folkloric music. It is common for cultures across the world to have mating dances in which a member of one gender will attract the other with some sort of sensual move that shows confidence or implies sex, and this is no exception. It is the male equivalence in Hip Hop of twerking, in which the females move their bottom up and down to stimulate sexual desire. Although the stanky leg doesn’t necessarily have any specific sexual movement, it is meant to simulate a safe and relaxed environment for the females, for which it is considered a seduction/mating dance.

Earth cycle
Folk Dance
Rituals, festivals, holidays


My informant is a young Indian-American woman who is well-versed in the customs of her culture and frequently participates in these traditions. She told me about Garba, a traditional Indian dance.

Garba is a non-choreographed dance celebration usually performed during the festival of Navratri (based on the Hindi words for nine + nights). Garba is typically performed by North Indians and Gujaratis but is sometimes celebrated by Punjabis.

Garba usually celebrates the Hindu goddess Durga, who is considered to be the main mother of creation. It consists of two circles, one in the center of the other, with an idol inside the inner circle. The inner circle is supposed to represent the womb of the universe, while the circles represent time because the Hindu concept of time is cyclical due to reincarnation. The dancers are always switching dance partners, so they are constantly moving.

The traditional outfit worn during Garba is a chaniya choli: a top that sometimes has a vest or jacket, with a long skirt and a scarf. People come to this celebration dressed up in bright colors and the women wear lots of nice jewelry – essentially people choose to come dressed up and looking their best.

The version of this dance that my informant is familiar with is called Dandiya. In this dance, each dancer wields two wooden sticks roughly 2cm in diameter and 1.5ft in length. Sometimes these sticks are decorated but they are usually plain. Two people act as dance partners and hit each other’s sticks together: first one stick, then the other, then both, then they spin, and then move on to the next person. This is the basic movement, but people tend to improvise in fancier patterns so their partner has to keep up (my informant jokingly told me that this is why North Indians tend to be good dancers). This style of Garba (also known as dandiya-raas) is associated with Krishna. “Raas” means play/dance. This style is supposed to imitate a sword fight.

I am glad that my informant knows so much about the symbolism behind this dance, as it adds so much more depth and beauty to the understanding of this practice. I also find it interesting that there is a rendition that combines the idea of creation and the flow of time with battle.