Tag Archives: dance

Danza de los Viejitos

Main piece:

There’s this thing called Danza de los Viejitos. It’s is a dance to represent the 4 elements, which are water, earth, air and fire, and the dancers wear this thing called a Sarape, a cloak, and a straw hat and sandals with a wooden bottom so that their footsteps are like, heard by the people who are worshipping. It’s kinda cool because the dance has a cool purpose. It’s so that we can pray for a good harvest, especially, corn, and so that we can have a stronger connection to the spirits.


The informant, SB, currently lives in Pomona, CA and his parents are from Mexico. He goes to CalPoly Pomona. This is a tradition that he remembers fondly from his childhood. I met him through his girlfriend, JH. This story was collected over a group call.


I think that this tradition is interesting because a lot of other cultures also have it where the four elements are “Earth, air, fire and water”––this is true of Greek, Babylonian, Chinese, and other cultures I’m sure. It goes to show how integral these four elements are to the well being of the body and the environment, cross culturally. 

A Modern Quinceañera

Abstract: The Quinceañera also known as quince is a huge milestone in Hispanic culture as it is the right of passage for a girl to become a woman. This is the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday and the meaning behind it has been adapted as time goes on. Initially, it was a ceremony to show that a girl is ready for marriage and to travel the path of motherhood but the ceremony now is more of a transition to dating. The ceremony consists of a few customs such as the girl attending a mass with their godparents and family witness the transition. Later at the dinner, a waltz is performed as a formality and the changing of the girl’s shoes into heels.

Background: H is a student at the University of Southern California who’s experienced this traditional ceremony from her transition into womanhood. She’s lived in California her entire life and is a first-generation American and her family keeps many of their traditions from Mexico alive in her life.  She believes that the way her Quince was conducted is very traditional but also has a few twists that are uncommon to the format. The topic was brought up during lunch while discussing our family roots.


P: So tell me about an event that you think defines your culture and has influenced your growth.

H: My Quince! It was so much fun but it definitely wasn’t as traditional as some would have one of those was I didn’t wear the big dress because my parents wanted to surprise me with a large celebration so that would’ve ruined it and also because of this I didn’t have a chamberlain or a court but we did do a dance my family and myself and it was a lot of fun. Some of the traditions we did follow were we have a mariachi come to my house and play in the backyard and we did attend a mass to stick with the traditions of a quince. We also had a beautiful cake and we had a small ceremony where I put on heels to show that I’m growing up. It was so much fun being with my family. 

Interpretation:This seems to be a fun example of the modernization of a popular tradition where some of the key distinctions are preserved but some of the more outdated elements are omitted from the day. For example, the big dress which is meant to show that a girl is flowering out into a woman wasn’t required for her party since she went with a more mature modern dress which still has the same effect of showing a girl growing up. Second, she didn’t have a small court but rather she spend her time with her family which just shows that women being escorted by men is a bit outdated, and rather the party should show the enjoyment of being in the company of your family. However, the essence of her culture was maintained since she had her whole family with her and they ate a traditional Hispanic dinner while listening to cultural music. For more information of Quinceanera visit this source: The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Quinceañera.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 12 Aug. 2019, www.britannica.com/topic/quinceanera.

El Caballo Dorado

Background: Informant is a 22 year old first generation Mexican American.

Main Piece:

Interviewer: Are there any popular traditions your family has for parties?

Informant: Well for almost every party, they play this song called El Payaso del Rodeo by El Caballo Dorado. It is a song where the same dance moves are repeated, you start by stomping your foot, and when the music starts you dance to the left, then dance backwards, then forward and back again, you essentially turn after the last time you dance backwards to face different directions. This song is a staple at most parties, but especially at quinceneras.

Context: Interview with a family friend, asking about any family traditions.

Thoughts: I have heard of el caballo dorado, but I was not aware that it was not the name of the song. I always called the song and the dance el caballo dorado. It is interesting to know that some people know the actual facts of the song. Meanwhile others, like myself only know what we always been told. The caballo dorado is a fun dance, and really gets people on the dance floor.


Context: The informant is my aunt and will be referred to as L.I. She is originally from Hawaii and is of Filipino descent. She grew up in Hawaii, which is where the Hula dance and its importance, but she now lives in San Diego with her husband (my uncle) and their two children.

Main Text: L.I: “No one speaks true Hawaiian anymore so the Hula is how Hawaiians communicate now, by portraying words in a visual dance form. The two main categories of Hula are Hula Auana and Hula Kahiko. The Auana is much more flowy and common now, it is usually accompanied by song, guitar, and a ukulele. Kahiko, on the other hand, is more like a slap dance like the Samoan Haka and is accompanied by chanting”.

M.M.: “Is there a reason for there being two separate forms?”

L.I.: “The Kahiko is how they communicated in ancient times and the Auana is more modern and Americanized, its a lot more accepted. The hand motions within Hula dances are used to represent the words in a song or chant. For example, the fluid hand motions in the Auana can signify nature: the swaying of a tree in the breeze or a wave in the ocean.”

Analysis: Hula dances have always been an important part of Hawaiian culture, they are performed at all Luaus and weddings. I find it interesting how the Hula dance transformed in order to be more accessible and appealing to visitors from the United States. It demonstrates how the Hawaiian islands adopted to their new identity within the United States of America. The more fluid Auana form of Hula is very recognizable within the continental United States whereas the Kahiko is not.

The Schuhplatter

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from dialogue between my self, GK, and my friend DH.

DH: The Schuhplattler is a popular German dance that I know of. I’ve watched it preformed a number of times but have never preformed it myself. But it is a very exciting and funny to watch because the song is played by an accordion and the dance moves are a bit goofy. 

GK: What are the dance moves? 

DH: There are different parts. First you stomp on the ground. Then you clap and bend your leg sideways in order strike the soles of your shoes. Right after that, you immediately go on to slap your thighs and then your knee caps. After completing those steps, you do it all again but this time with the other leg. 

Background: The informant is a 57 year old man who comes from German heritage. Their whole family are members of a German-American club which is the main reason why the informant became aware of this dance. He did not formally learn The Schuhplattler until he was 10 years old. 

Context: The informant and I discussed this dance face to face.

My Thoughts: In my opinion this dance is one of the more high energy dances that I have come across. I think the main reason for this is because it is a group dance and the dance moves are different from normal dance moves. I have not seen this dance spread into American culture as much, which surprises me because I feel like it would be very popular amongst the younger generations who tend to like funny dances like this. 

Here is a video of the dance being preformed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxRACYQAkgA

Mosh-pit culture at EDM raves and festivals

Main Piece

Interviewer: What are the rules of mosh-pitting?

Informant: If someone falls, you pick them up you do not trample them. You are not trying to intentionally hurt anyone, that is usually a golden rule. Sometimes there are also women-only moshpits, and it is pretty cool because it encourages women to mosh without worrying about the muscled-up guys that usually mosh. Every guy will let them just have their pit, it is always respected. 

There are different types of moshpits too. There is a circle where people just mosh in a big circle thing. And then there is a circle pit, basically you are just running in a circle, there’s no bumping or hitting it is just running. Sometimes people are inside the circle, and some of them can get huge like wall to wall at venues. That is a weird one haha.

There are also ones called Wall of Deaths–those are crazy, man. DJ’s usually start it by saying “Yo, this is my last song, I wanna see a Wall of Death in this Motherfucker. Lets’s Go!” 

Basically what happens is two lines open the middle of the venue, and people go to one of the sides. Once you have a big enough opening, the bass drops, and then both sides just run at each other. You collide with each other and then you just make this giant mosh pit. It is crazy. You’ll usually see this with EDM, pop-punk, heavy-metal. 


The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, who is currently a senior at USC studying Health and Human Sciences whose family is living in a town four hours outside of Denver, Colorado. Coming from a military family, the informant has lived in various areas, the most memorable for him was New Orleans. The informant is half Korean and half Caucasian, and is a sports fanatic having played soccer for most of his life. The informant is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to several festivals a year, originally beginning to attend in his senior year of high school. 


Being someone who attended a lot of Latinx punk shows in my hometown, I am a big fan of moshing. Last year my informant took me to my first rave, and explained the different styles of moshing and how to mosh in this scenario. Now, I have gone to a couple of more, and during our interview I asked hi to break down the rules and different types of moshpits. 


I think mosh-pits are a type of folk dance at certain venues where participants are able to act in a more aggressive and violent manner than how they’d act in everyday scenarios. Moshing gives a lot of individuals a chance to express any pent up anger or aggression, while still balancing the concept of PLUR (Peace, Love Unity, Respect) which many ravers follow. I believe that is why there are many types of mosh-pits and set rules to secure that people do not seriously injure themselves. 

Tamales in Christmas

Main piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Interviewer: Can you tell me about the tamales? When you make them for Christmas? 

Informant: Oh of course! Well you know how it works. Everyone has to contribute in one way or another. For example, your mom and sister help me with the preparation and you and your dad put the money. And that way everyone puts their share. 

Interviewer: But isn’t there like a myth where if you get mad, the tamales don’t cook? 

Informant: That’s very true so don’t you dare get mad. 

Interviewer: But why? What happens? Or how do they not cook? 

Informant: They just don’t, don’t you remember 2 years ago we had to start over because your mom got mad and they didn’t cook. 

Interviewer: Oh yeah but maybe that’s just a coincidence? 

Informant: No it is real. And if you get mad you have to dance or they won’t cook. 

Background: My informant here was my grandma who’s staying with us during COVID-19. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico but lives in the U.S. with us for the most part. She has been helping us make tamales every year for Christmas. She says that when she was younger, her family would circle around a table and each person a specific task in making the tamales. 

Context: I sat down with my grandma and asked her about this myth. I didn’t tell her it was for a project but I just brought it up and then recorded the interview above. The setting was first in the kitchen and then proceeded to the living room. 

Thoughts: I’ve heard of this myth in Mexico before from other family but my mom and grandma tell it to us all the time around christmas time. Getting mad is very bad so I usually just go to my room to avoid anything of the fuss. I don’t think it’s true. Maybe if you get mad, you don’t have the same desire or mood to cook and it’s easier to mess up. But I don’t think it has a direct relationship but I find it cool that it’s a very common myth in Mexico. 


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.

May Pole

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.”

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.

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.

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.