USC Digital Folklore Archives / Folk Dance
Folk Dance
Gestures
Musical
Narrative

Kathak

  1. The main piece: Kathak

“Um… Kathak is a classical North Indian dance form. It’s like… thousands of years old or something like that. And it’s pretty much… it has to do w like storytelling and like… kinda like describing the tales of India and Pakistan and stuff. Um, so, there’s a lot about the sounds that your feet make. Like the sounds your toes, or the soles of your feet make. You kind of stomp a lot. Most of it is like one rhythm, but you change the speeds and you change your hands to portray a story. Like going super fast is like building up tension, like the snakes are about to eat you. Slow is like, you know, nicely walking through a field of flowers, so nice and pleasant. Yeah, that’s literally it.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Context of the performance?

“When we finally stopped moving around and settled in Porter Ranch, we didn’t really know anyone. My parents didn’t have any Pakistani or Gujarati friends nearby, and, well, I literally knew nothing about my culture. So they signed me up for kathak classes, which really hurt your feet by the way, and that’s where I met a bunch of my really close family friends and my best friend.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

This piece shows the importance that dance has as an artform in folklore. Dance combines the retelling of folk narratives, in this case legends and myths of Hindu gods and Pakistani heroes, with an aesthetically pleasing and dynamic medium of expression. It is different from normal storytelling because it is entirely nonverbal, yet it aims to recapture the emotions and visual aspects of folk narratives, making them more real to all of the community members watching.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is an 18 year old Indian and Pakistani American female who grew up in the United States, but moved a lot as a child. While she didn’t feel close to her parents, she met her childhood best friends through local Pakistani and Indian cultural lessons such as dance classes and singing lessons, and prizes her memories of those classes.

Folk Dance
Initiations
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sangeet Dancing

Collection: Indian wedding dances – bride’s side

The interview began with a broad opening question about Indian weddings. The informant went on to describe the two-day event. The first day is called Sangeet which takes place in a venue where a reception might take place. However, this portion of the event is before the official ceremony. On this first day, there are many different dance performances and skits from both sides of the family. Most of the performances are from the bride’s side to “show the groom what he is getting himself into…what kind of family that he is getting into.” There are dances for the sibling, aunts, children, friends, and more.

Context: Dances are performed by different sides of the family on different days of the wedding.

Interpretation: Folk dancing takes on many meanings, purposes, and forms. In India, the bride’s family dances to symbolize the joining of two families. The Sangeet dancing is almost an introduction to her side of the family.

Adulthood
Folk Dance
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Indian Dancing Ritual

Collection:  Indian wedding dances – groom’s side

During a discussion about Indian weddings, the informant mentioned that the groom is not allowed to see the bride before the ceremony. On the day of the ceremony, the groom and his family travel to the bride in an extravagant dancing parade which symbolizes him claiming her as his wife.

Context/Interpretation: Folk dancing is performed for various reasons, and in this case, the dance portrays a traditional action. Further, dancing at wedding is a pretty universal concept, however this dancing demonstration signifies a deeper meaning which the the initiation into marriage. This dance is rite of passage ritual.

 

Folk Dance
Musical

SAE Fraternity Memorial Celebration

At the University of the South (informally known as Sewanee) in rural Tennessee, I witnessed and participated in a large informal celebration held in memory of my late brother, with the university his alma mater. The celebration was preceded by a more formal memorial charity golf tournament held earlier in the day. The party detailed below followed not long after at the university’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE for short, also my late brother’s fraternity). The fraternity also arranged the golf tournament itself and arranged for a recreational social gathering to follow. The entirety of my late brother’s former fraternity members (known as a pledge class) were present, along with former classmates.

 

Earlier in the evening, a small concert led by popular local musicians was held on the porch, along with barbequed food consisting of brisket, sausage, and potato salad (among others).

 

Following the departure of the band and caterers, the approach of the crowd in the building shifted as higher levels of activity (and intoxication) became acceptable now that the night had progressed, and daylight had passed completely into night.

 

A crowd of around 50 to 75 remaining partygoers congregated completely into a large corner room of the building, an area adjacent to the kitchen where food is typically served for similar events. For such functions, there is a large rectangular table centered in the room bearing the yellow and purple colors of the house along with their coat of arms and titular house letters.

 

With large speakers taking the place of the band and copious amounts of beer taking place of the caterers, the entire crowd then gathered around the center table to the tune of a pre-arranged musical playlist of Harry’s favorite songs, occasionally breaking up any potential melancholy brought about by the playlist with popular dancing songs in order to keep energy levels consistent.

 

In tandem with the music starting, people in pairs or trios came to take turns dancing on the tabletop for a few minutes at a time, usually remaining for the duration of two to three songs before excusing themselves from the center of attention and being helped down, to be quickly followed by another pair or trio hopping up.

 

The entire party lasted until the hours between 12am and 1am, when large activities are legally required to shut down. Given that the gathering in the table-centered area began around 9:30 to 10:00 pm, this particular activity therefore extended for roughly 2 to 2.5 hours in total.

 

Although this congregation of friends and family came about in remembrance of tragic circumstances (ie someone’s untimely death), the resulting proximity of so many at once where they may have otherwise not been brought together in such a way prompts not only a celebration of the life of he who passed, but also a celebration of the many lives that have continued on.

 

Such a situation goes to show how happiness in large groups is capable of wholly overwhelming any notions of sadness, and that such celebrations in the wake of tragedies can be considered appropriate when such an effect is properly achieved and initially intended.

Folk Dance
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Venezuela: Los Diablos de Yare

Informant: Los Diablos de Yare are a religious festival celebrated in Venezuela during Corpus Christi. I remember being introduced to this in school as a child. Every time the festival approached, we would make masks designed to look like devils. Then we would wear the masks and dance around. Even though the masks were designed to look like devils or monsters, they were all extremely colorful. This festivity is a yearly tradition filled with joy, family, and friends. Basically, the whole festivities are made to celebrate good over evil. This is why the masks are made to look like devils and the tradition is considered religious; the whole point is to demonstrate how good will always beat out evil. I don’t remember the origins of it exactly, but I know that it has been a Venezuelan tradition for centuries and that it has obviously evolved over the years. 

Analysis: 

This festival seems to be a very important part of Venezuelan culture. I think the reason why it is so prominent in Venezuela is because its religious. This would explain why schools make a whole celebration out of it and why the tradition has been able to survive for hundreds of years.

I wish the informant would have been able to provide more information as to where and how the tradition originated exactly, but I understand that she has been around it for so long that she just takes it to be a yearly ritual. It’s very intriguing to me that the festival depicts devils in order to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. This demonstrates a very strong imagery that plays with perceptions. It is almost as if the use of devil masks make the devils less intimidating and demonstrate to people that they are stronger than evil. In other words, the creating of this masks can work as a metaphor for taking control over ones own demons. Overall, I really liked this piece of folklore. The vivid colors used for the masks and the dances that happen all around town make it pretty clear that this festival is a time for celebration and family.

Folk Dance
general
Kinesthetic
Material

The Cowboy Raver of the Bay Area

Background: I interviewed Professor Nye to talk about his raving experiences. He described his most active era to be from 1997-2001 in the underground trance music scene of the Bay Area. He attended many outdoor, open-air, camping events that are described as “underground” or not necessarily sanctioned in the same way that official music festivals, such as Coachella, or Outside Lands are.

Context: Professor Nye was at this point in the conversation reflecting on the colorful culture of raves, and the neon colors he associates with his memories of it.

“I’ll also introduce one figure from the mid to late 90s that I would be fascinated to know what happened to him. You’d see him at all these events. He was this amazing guy, I think he was – whether it was his regular job I don’t know- I think he was kind of a traveler who was a former cowboy or was a cowboy. And he would get dressed up and actually had, in the middle of these parties, a glow-stick lasso. And he’d be like lasso-ing with this glow in the dark lasso, or even multiple lassos, and that was pretty incredible. He was affiliated with this Bay Area trance scene that I was primarily involved in. Around ‘98, ‘99, 2000.”

Aside from the illustrious raver cowboy figure, there is an element of rave dance from the late 90s being shared here. The use of neon, glow in the dark lassos as part of the ritual of dancing in a crowd is an important aspect of the information being imparted here.

Customs
Festival
Folk Dance
Gestures
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Carrying the Virgins

The informant is my friend (referred to as EP) who is from Brooklyn, New York, but lives in Spain for the summer. Her father is from Spain and her mother is from Puerto Rico. Every year when she goes to Spain she lives on her family ranch that is outside of a town called Porto. She described a special religious holiday that entails all the small towns in the area coming together to celebrate.

 

EP: “Every year in May everyone wakes up at like 6 A.M all of the small villages in the area hike up a huge mountain carrying the virgins of the town up to the top of the mountain. So basically it takes the whole village to get to the top of the mountain because they are carrying the virgins.”

 

CI: “The virgins meaning..?”

 

EP: “Oh the villages each carry large statues of Virgin Mary. And then we walk all the way up this huge mountain and then when they get to the top the virgins meet… I mean all the men holding up the statues do kind of like a dance with the Virgin Mary statues, like kind of introducing all of them. It’s like 3 seconds for each village. “

 

And then basically it’s like 8 AM and we just celebrate. So we put Spanish donuts in red wine and drink at like 8:30 and we eat a lot of octopus.

 

No one has ever really told me what it’s for or why we do that in May and what the significance is but it’s just something we’ve been doing forever.”

 

I find this particularly interesting because not only does it seem like a very sacred and difficult day, but it tells a lot about the culture. People start drinking early on in order to celebrate a very sacred religious holiday. I believe the feasting is a way of praising religion and it is also interesting that after all of these years, the informant does not really know what the event is for. Despite this festival returning every year, the significance has never been explained, meaning they probably don’t discuss the holiday’s meeting at the festival. Therefore, this seems more like a passed down tradition rather than a sacred holiday.

 

Customs
Festival
Folk Dance
Gestures
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

China Temple Fair

The informant is my high school friend (referred to as LM) who is American and lived in China for 4 years (2 during high school and 2 after high school). She lived with a Chinese host family and then lived on her own in Beijing for 2 years. I asked her what one of the favorite experiences she had in China was and she explained this festival.

 

LM: “There was this temple fair that is a festival kind of and definitely a really fun social activity. The temple fair I went to took place when I was living in Beijing and it’s always around Chinese New Year. So basically I went to one called the Ditan Temple Fair.  The temple fairs are all usually on the open ground in or near the temple. Some are held only during the Spring Festival. Although there are a bunch of different fairs, they are all kind of the same thing.

 

Farmers and merchants sell their produce and antiques and stuff. It is almost like a flea market and you can always barter. There is a lot of jade out and there are always fresh flowers. Snacks are made and people sing and dance and there’s even storytelling going on. It’s a lot going on and it’s really fun. Most people are out and buying things or just watching the performances.”

 

Hearing about this festival seems very communal and interactive. In comparison to many other festival events and new years that seem to be less religious or less structured. It is obviously sacred because it is done outside of festivals, but it seems like a very free and relaxed experience.

 

 

Festival
Folk Dance
Holidays
Kinesthetic
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Gang-gang-sul-lae

Story 

Gang-gang-sul-lae is a Korean folk dance that is exclusively performed by women of the community. It is also known as Ganggangsuwollae (강강수월래 in Hangeul/ 强羌水越來 in Hanja, which are Traditional Chinese Characters. It is a traditional dance where group of women hold hands in a circle, spinning around and singing. 

My mother, who I collected this data from said: “When I learned the history of Gang-gang-sul-lae in elementary school, I was told that admiral Yi Sun-sin (이순신) , during the Japanese invasion of Korea in the 16th Century, devised a plan to dress all the women into men’s clothing and dance around in circles. Then the Japanese soliders thought that admiral Yi had a big army and retreated in intimidation.”

Context

I remember first seeing Gang-gang-sul-lae in the field of my public school when celebrating Chuseok (추석/ Mid-Autumn Festival). It was during 2005, which was the same year when I started attending elementary school. I remember my mother and I dressing up in Hanbok (한복/ Traditional Korean Attire) and having a valuable cultural experience provided by the local community. This traditional dance has significance to my mother and many other Korean women as they have partaken in Gang-gang-sul-lae themselves. Because my mother now resides in Los Angeles and has not performed the Gang-gang-sul-lae for over a decade, singing and spinning around the living room while holding her son’s hand apparently brought back a “joyous memory”. 

Analysis

Despite being well known through its role it allegedly served in the 1592-1598 Japanese invasions of Korea, Gang-gang-sul-lae’s role in modern day society serves as a symbol of Korean culture and ‘heritage’. It is rare to see youth to play though performing the dance, it can always be seen at cultural events, which are especially prevalent during traditional holidays such as the first full moon of the lunar calendar and the mid-autumn festival.

Customs
Festival
Folk Dance
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

SABADO DE GLORIA

Tradition

Sabado de Gloria is  whole week or two weeks I believe. This tradition is from Jerez, Zacatecas Mexico. It’s dedicated to Holy Week, Everyday is a different day for a religion which is Catholicism and dedicated to Jesus Christ. It is Special to my pueblo because its a special pueblo   its considered a magic pueblo. And do do it because I like the relay JustFab is turned into like a little Advanced more like you can go out and have fun and do the bunch of like musicians and stuff like that. People from all parts of Mexico come over and enjoy all of the festivities like a carnival in the fair. You can ride horses in different parts of the city either a bunch of music and decisions it gets really crowded they have pinatas which is like symbols of the different  disciples. When one of the disciples Betrayed Jesus He hung himself so it’s a representation of bringing the disciple  in piece. They turned it into a positive thing but have a religious meaning behind it. Sacrifices to remember him and his sacrifice for us.

My family is involved with the fair they sell alcohol they sell food and tacos and one of my uncles has a ranch of horses so they will take their horses and start making them dance and dress all coach cultural and with traditional suits.  The dances are tamborazo and banda. The guys dress in Charro suits and the girls  where  traditional dresses but different because they like to ride horses. On fridays they have a reenactment of jesus carrying the cross all the way to church and everyone goes into church and celebrate. Sabado de gloria is a mix of culture and relgion of Jerez Zacatecas

 

Background info

Since the informant is from here he really feels close to this event from his hometown because he goes every year to celebrate it with his family and brings him closer to his culture and his religion. This tradition that happens is very important to that specific town and it makes him feel proud of where he’s from and that part of Mexico. This event is really meaningful to him not just because he gets to be close to his hometown but also to celebrate with everybody from the town and get to know them as well.

 

Context

Sabado de gloria is huge in zacatecas and has elongated because it has become very touristy

According to a cultural website “ hundreds of riders travel the main streets of the city proudly wearing the charro suit and inviting women to ride their horses and take a walk. The importance of this party is such, that you can find riding or in some tapanco to personalities of the political or artistic life of national level that adorn us with their presence.”

 

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