USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘dance’
Folk Dance

Sirtaki

Interviewer: Can you tell me about the greek dance the Sirtaki?

AH: Yeah, that’s probably the most famous greek dance people always are performing it at celebrations and stuff.

Interviewer: What type of celebrations is it performed at?

AH: you can see it at a lot of stuff like holidays, parades, birthdays, just whenever there is an official celebration of something. 

Interviewer: How do you actually do the dance?

AH: You basically are in a line of people where you stick out your arms and put them on the people next to you’s shoulders and then move back in forth as a unit kicking your legs and lunging. 

Interviewer: Do you know the origin off the dance?

AH: No not really but everyone in Greece knows it and it is a pretty old part of our culture, I think it has been around for hundreds of years. 

Interviewer: How do you feel about the dance? 

AH: I think its pretty fun to see. Since its usually done while I’m celebrating something it’s always in a fun environment and its usually kind of funny too see because the people doing it are usually dressed up and it’s a funny looking dance.

Context: My informant is an eighteen-year-old student at USC. He was born in Athens Greece and lived there his entire life until coming to Los Angeles for college. He learned about this folk dance during his time living in Greece. This interview took place in person at Leavey library on USC’s campus. 

Analysis: This is folk dance is an interesting piece of Greek folklore. It reminds me of how when I visited Spain I was able to see how much the flamenco is a part of the Spanish culture. I enjoyed hearing that this is not a dance that is commercialized or sold as part of Greek culture but rather a real part that greek people enjoy.

Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Folk Dance
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

May Pole

Content:
Informant – “In early May, the Waldorf school hosts a May Pole celebration. In the central courtyard of the lower grades, the faculty erects a tall wooden pole crowned with a bouquet of flowers. Dangling from the top of the pole are long ribbons. Everyone is invited. Grades 1-3 dance and sing songs with their German and Spanish teachers. Then grades 4-6 dance around the maypole with the ribbons. Each grade has a specific dance, but all the dances are spiral. They interweave the ribbons, going in and out. 7th grade plays the music. Each dance has a very specific song.”

Context:
Informant – “The May Pole is a symbolic of the Earth reawakening. The dancing is circular, spiral, going in and coming out. It’s the rhythm of how the world works, an awakening and a sleeping, an awakening and a sleeping. As the outer world becomes more opulent, we see the green, smell the flowers, and inner world becomes sleepier. It’s a very joyful, very OUTWARD celebration. We are recognizing the earth crowned with flowers, the scent, the glory. It’s very very visual.”
The informant learned about this festival when she started teaching at the Austin Waldorf School. She knew about the May Pole before, but not the specifics.

Analysis:
Each grade has a specific role to fill in the celebration. It’s highly regulated. This adds to the community-centric atmosphere of the festival. Everyone has a role to fill. The spiral dancing reminds me of a flower unfurling, going from within to without. It’s interesting that such a joyous, gregarious celebration is so strictly controlled. There is no room for improvisation.

Folk Dance

Turkish Cricket Dance

P.N. – “Right now, I just realized how much of a theme Nature is in all of our dances.  Nature plays a huge part in our own understanding of the world.  It’s why we have these two characters, Karagoz and Hacivat, who represent the dichotomy of the city and the country, fighting.  There’s a reason why we have this constant back-and-forth of going from the city to the farmland.  I think the reason for this is that there are only a few really big cities in Turkey, and people who live there are very, very different from the people who live in the villages, and we have so many villages . . . Everybody comes from a village, and they move to the city.  Only the newer generations are from the cities.  On that subject, folk dancing has given me a deeper connection with nature. A more sub-conscious thing.  I didn’t see how it impacted me before.  I think Turkish culture teaches you to respect nature.  SO . . .”

-“There’s this dance where, again, we’re crickets; and we have these spoons that we click to sound like the chirping noises.  We dance in a circle together, kinda going around, to the music, and as it slows down the music breaks and somebody sings in the tone of a prayer.  Here, we bend down and click our spoons.”

And that connects you to nature how?

“I guess because we’re portraying nature.  It adds a much more mystical aspect to it, because, like, we have such a disconnect – especially now – with nature as an entity, because we use it more as a backdrop.  These dances help me keep nature here at the forefront.  Because; think about it, we exist because of nature, and I don’t think we focus on that enough.”

 

For me, this dance brings to light a very different topic.  While this person’s other dance reminds her of hardship and oppression, this one brings up thoughts of responsibility.  The environmentalist thought that everything we do counts, and that it is our duty as inhabitants of this planet to be mindful, is mightily prevalent here.  It makes me wonder how the idea of environmentalism, modesty, and perspective play roles in our everyday lives, as well as in our cultures. 

Digital
Folk Dance

The Floss (Viral Dance)

How to Floss

Context:
Sitting with my grandma, younger sister, mom, and uncle. My sister, M, is 16. We started discussing Fortnite dances and how popular they have become, particularly the Floss dance.

Piece:
Me: “You can’t go anywhere without seeing a kid doing the floss dance.”
M: “Yeah, we were just at the Phillies game with dad and almost every kid on the screen started doing the Floss”
Grandma: “Flossing their teeth on the screen”
Me: “No hahaha, it’s a dance. It was online first, some kid was doing it at a Katy Perry concert on stage and then it blew up. Now it’s in that game Fortnite.”
M: *Starts doing the floss*
Me: “Yeah… I can’t even do it…”

Discussion:
I’m sure that thousands of people have had this same conversation because of how popular the dance craze is amongst the youth and their parents always having to ask them what they heck they are doing. The origin of this dance started with “the backpack kid” on SNL performing with Katy Perry in May of 2017. The internet quickly captured the moment and immortalized it in a meme and spread it like wildfire. By September 2017 the “Floss Dance” had earned its name and made its way into the game of Fortnite, an international sensation video game. At this point, everyone under the age of 15 was practicing the floss dance at their home, trying to perfect the arm movements. Every parent around the world was confused as to why their child was flailing their arms in such a way, until they did some research and learned the terminology. Now, “The Floss” is a common household reference and more people know of it than don’t.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Iraqi Wedding Tradition

Marc is one of my close friends, and I knew that his dad is from South Africa, and his mom is of Arab descent. With this in mind, I asked if he had any particular traditions at celebrations from either of these cultures. What he told me about what a dance that he has done at multiple Arab style weddings.

 

Marc said that, “At weddings we do something called a Dakbe line, this is pretty much when the whole wedding gets in a big line and does a traditional line dance from various Arab areas, this is usually done at weddings but also at other celebratory events. It’s one of my favorite things to do at these types of events. I learned this from my mom’s side of the family who is of Arab descent.”

 

Background Info: Marc’s father is from South Africa and his Mom’s parents are from an area near Iraq. Marc now lives in Florida, and attends many events every year that involve traditions and flavors of these two different backgrounds.

 

Context: Marc told me about this tradition while we were in his apartment hanging out during small talk.

 

Analysis: I personally have yet to attend a wedding, so I don’t know of any wedding traditions that I have seen in person. At bar mitzvahs, there is a similar type of line dance that Marc speaks of. What I found interesting was how this dance is done at other celebratory events as well because in my religion, this type of dance is only at specific events rather than multiple.

 

Folk Dance
Legends

The Highland Fling

BACKGROUND:

A man in Sacramento, California recounts the traditional dance known as the Highland Fling and a legend passed down by his Scottish ancestors. The practice of the Highland Fling originated in the early 19th century grew in popularity throughout the next hundred years. According to my source, when his ancestors immigrated to America, his great great grandma was so excited to see Elis Island, she broke into this traditional dance and captivated onlookers both on and off the boat.

THE DANCE:

Below is an example of the dance being performed:

Source: “Scottish Highland Dancing: Highland Fling.” YouTube, YouTube, 29 July 2006, www.youtube.com/watch?v=emCIxAJCe2g.

THE INTERVIEW:

My interview with my source, R, went as follows:

ME: Could you tell me about an instance where you’ve witnessed the Highland Fling?

R: I can’t tell you a time when I saw it live but I can tell you about a story of it happening.

ME: Yeah that works too.

R: Well my great great grandmother, her two brothers, and their parents all sailed from Scotland to New York at Elis Island. I’ve been told that my great great grandma was so excited she began to do the Highland Fling. Now she was only 5 at this time. I guess the people around thought this was very cute. Soon enough she’d drawn a crowd.

 

MY THOUGHTS:

The legend that’s been passed down compliments this traditional Scottish dance. I set out to get more information on the origins of the dance itself but was pleasantly surprised to find out that it actually had some heavy significance in my source’s family.

Festival
Folk Dance
Kinesthetic
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Clicking Sticks: A Folk Dance

This is like a dance slash game -um- it’s from like Indian Hindu culture actually like it used to be Hindu, but it’s kind of becoming more of like an Indian thing now -um- and basically you have these sticks. Each person has like two sticks; They’re called Raas (pronounced “Ross”) R-A-A-S -um- and like you, you just go around like hitting your sticks with other people’s sticks and it’s like you, you just like dance around all night like hitting sticks with other sticks and like you’ll make like patterns with your friends and like different complex like dances.

 So like if I have these two sticks and you have yours we could be like 1, 2, 3, turn (gesturing to alternating sides with each count and then spinning around with sticks touching your partners) and then there’s like two lines and they go like opposite ways and like so like I’ll go like… so we both move to our, our left so like after we, I hit your stick three times and turn or whatever then I’ll go to like the person next to you and we’ll do the same thing and we’ll keep going. It’s kinda like a circuit kind of.

Yeah and it’s like it’s around the time so that this whole um dance party thing is called garba -um-… G-A-R-B-A. Um- so -um- yeah and it’s usually in like October November it’s like uhh fall harvest type of thing. Yeah. 

The Informant, one of my classmates, shared the dance of Raas after discussion section. The dance is commonly performed during the Navratri festival alongside a similar and simpler folk dance called Garba. The festival is celebrated to pay respect to the Mother Goddess of the Hindu religion, Shakti. The performance of the dance celebrates the nine incarnations of the goddess.

The Informant told me that she doesn’t remember a time where she didn’t take part in the festivities of Navratri, including the folk dances of Raas and Garba. They’re a part of her life. She doesn’t know who taught them to her or when she first danced. One of the Informant’s favorite parts of the dance is the color. She said it reminds her of Holi, the famous Indian “festival of colors” in which people smear each other with color. By the end, everyone is a vibrant hue. In Navratri, the people begin the festival wearing colorful and vibrant Garba garbs. The dance is rather simple. There are no official steps, but performers click sticks to keep rhythm.

Raas was a traditionally male dominated dance, but has become more inclusive over the years. The two things prominent in Raas are vigor and force, however, a one of passion instead of violence. Raas and Garba are both fast-paced energy-filled dances comprised of two circles, one rotating clockwise and the other counterclockwise.

I loved this account of some of the folk dances cherished in India, but I loved the backstory even more. The fact that these dances have been a part of her life so long that she can’t remember a time that they weren’t present is, in my belief, a true marker of a folk dance that is massively culturally important.  This act is a merging of three areas of folklore. The dance itself, the festival at which it’s performed, and the mythology it celebrates.

For more information on Raas, Garba, and the Navratri festival, see here.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Dance Proverb

My informant SS is a 20-year-old girl of Jewish descent. She is very passionate about dance and participated on a dance team all throughout high school. In this piece, she describes a common saying to me (AK) that her dance coach attempted to instill in the minds of each girl on the team.

SS: From dance team we had the saying of: “Early is on time and on time is late.”

AK: So does this just mean you always had to be early?

SS: Kind of. At first it was annoying, but I got used to it pretty quickly.

AK: Does it have any significance to you or does it still apply to your life today?

SS: Definitely. It really sticks with me now. It’s a good life skill and saying I guess.

I found this proverb to be quite applicable to pretty much every facet of life. For me, this proverb is most applicable to things from my everyday life. For important events like interviews and tests, it is very easy to find the motivation to be on time because a lot is dependent on the event itself. However, for things like class and other day to day tasks, it is way harder to have the motivation to always be on time. For this reason, I try to abide by this proverb. It is certainly very difficult, but just the mindset of needing to be early allows me to show up on time. In a way, I still am “late”, but just this shift in mindset allows me to be traditionally “on time”.

Folk Beliefs
general
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

No Dancing in Texas/China

Context: I collected this from a high school friend when we were on a camping trip together over Spring Break.

Background: My friend was originally born in Texas, where his father is from, before moving to California as a child. His mother is an immigrant from China.

Dialogue: Yeah, um, again, I wrote a paper for dance history class that was in freshman year, about my personal experience with dance, and the professor gave me 100%, pulled me out of the class, and said, “Hey, I really enjoyed that paper, it was really cool, and I really appreciated the way that you opened up in the paper about your experiences,” because I wrote about how I have absolutely NO personal cultural experience with dance, like, in my life… Um… And that was due to the fact that my father was from the Deep South, and there, uh, at least for men, dance was seen as… something that was highly effeminate, and, like, if you danced it would somehow make you gay, um, and being from the Deep South he didn’t want me to be gay… So, I just NEVER danced as a child! And, then, on my mother’s side of the family, I had no cultural experience with dance because… uh, she was from China, but she was born under the Mao regime, and, um, during that time, a LOT of forms of art were actually pushed, um, out of the cultural sphere… And so there wasn’t really any dance except for this one dance that they did was like, “Hail the Might Mao” or whatever. Um… And, most forms of art were pushed out, so I had no culture of dance from that side either.

Analysis: I debated whether or not to check this under the Folk Dance category, but went against it because there isn’t actually a dance to be learned or performed. It’s interesting to compare these two different types of censorship, and see how much they’re based on the same kind of ideals. While the Maoist restriction of dance and art forms in general is more a complete totalitarian regime, the Deep South’s stereotyping and discrimination against gay people is more focused and specific. Yet they’re both based on the idea of controlling what people do through the use of villainization (against art and homosexuality, respectively).

Humor

Don’t make me snap my fingers

Main piece:

This is a song and dance.

“Don’t make me snap my fingers in a Z formation” *Snap right hand then make a Z shape in air while snapping at each turn*

“Exclamation” *4 snaps vertically downwards at each syllable*

“Booty rotation” *put hands on hips and rotate hips*

….

*Informant thinks there might have been more but doesn’t recall the rest*

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Informant said she remembers doing this song/dance as a middle schooler with her classmates. They did it for fun, and she remembers the boy in her class who would exaggerate his hip movements. She said there was more at the end of this song but can’t recall it all. She didn’t think of this as folklore but remembers it as a part of growing up.

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It is performed by young elementary to middle school aged children. It might be done during recess or when kids are spending time together for fun.

Personal Analysis:

I knew this dance personally in my elementary school. It’s funny how someone who grew up in LA and another who grew up in Texas know the same song. I don’t know if kids these days still do this dance for fun. Especially because technology has grown, they might not pass down these traditions. This dance seems like a part of my childhood as well as my informant’s, and although I forgot about it, it is interesting that I remembered it when I heard the first verse.

 

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