USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘dance’
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.

 

Customs
Foodways
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Dance Traditions

For dance, like, um, when I was with the company, the night before the show, like, we’d always have sleepovers, and we’d always drink three… three strawberry Fantas each, which is really bad for you, ’cause you’re not supposed to drink soda, obviously, the night before, but we did it anyway, it was just like a good luck thing.

 

Thoughts:

This good-luck tradition reverses something that it supposed to be discouraged and taboo and turns it into a ritual for luck. It shows the dancers’ and teenagers’ in general tendency to bend or break rules. Additionally, because my informant is a highly trained and very talented competitive dancer, it could speak to her and her teammates’ confidence that they will be able to perform their best regardless of drinking soda the night before a performance. The context of this tradition within a sleepover works to build a community and bond with the entire team, since they are spending the whole night before a performance (and presumably the entire day of the performance) with each other and participating in the same rule-breaking rituals.

Festival
Folk Dance
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

“Kolo”-Croatian Circle Dance

Informant FV is my grandfather who was born and raised in Split, Croatia. As a young boy, he grew up in a traditional Croatian family who upheld their culture through dancing Kolo. Kolo is a series of folk dances that vary by region. The word kolo is translated into “circle dance.”

For those you are not familiar with the Croatian culture, explain what kolo is and what it means.

FV: “Kolo means circle dance and it is a series of Croatian folk dances performed across the different regions in Croatia. Kolo is a type of dance performed in a circle formation where the dancers, both male and female, follow specific steps holding hands in one big group circle. There is always music accompanied with this type of dancing.”

What are the different regions within Croatia?

FV: “There are four different regions in Croatia. The first one is called Croatia proper. This region is the central part of the Republic of Croatia and it is where the capital, Zagreb, is located. Zagreb is also the largest city in Croatia. The second region is the region of Slavonia. Slavonia is mostly the eastern inland area of the country. Next is Istria. Istria is a northern peninsula that is the westernmost region of Croatia. It is famous for the city called ‘Pula.’ Lastly is Dalmatia, which is the region I am from. Dalmatia is the majority of the coastline of Croatia and it includes the southern cities of Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik.”

Which of these regions perform kolo?

FV: “All of these regions have their own form of kolo. For example, for my region of Dalmatia, we perform a type of kolo called Linđo. Linđo represents kolo for the southern parts of Croatia like Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. Other regions like Slavonia and Istria, they perform what’s called Šokačko and Balun. Šokačko means ‘the shaker.’ Slavonia has more of a Turkish influence on the dance because it’s inland and because of past history and Istria has more of a Venetian influence because of how close Croatia and Italy are in distance. The city of Split also has been heavily influenced by the Venetian culture because of its location alongside the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Split and the region of Istria sustained the practices and dances from Italy. Turkey never occupied Split or Zadar, so these cities maintained their Italian influenced dances.”

What styles were the kolo costumes influenced by?

FV: “The Croatian national costumes are called ‘Narodna nošnja,’ which means, ‘native or national costume.’ These costumes vary in design, style, material and color based on the location of each region. For example, since Dalmatia and Istria are located on the coast, their costumes consist of Adriatic or Venetian influence. The men’s costumes are usually white or black and have dark trousers that are tighter fitting with a white shirt and a vest. They also wear a red silk belt with a black cap. Women typically wear several layers, which include a white blouse, a skirt with a very colorful apron on top that has red, white and gold stitching and fringe. The women wear colorful scarves with red, white, blue and green, along with beads and coral necklaces, which represents the Adriatic coast.”

In what context would kolo be performed?

FV: “Kolo is danced at every major holiday, festival, party, religious gatherings, weddings, etc.”

When or how did you learn kolo?

FV: “I learned kolo when I was a young boy growing up in my family and by attending special gatherings were it was performed. It is a lot of fun once you learn the steps and the rhythm of the music.”

Does kolo have any significant meaning to you?

FV: “Yes absolutely. Kolo is part of my heritage and culture. It is a large part of our Croatian celebrations and festivities to dance kolo, as it is a form of group dance and performed in a group setting. It is something that we use to express ourselves and the music that goes along with it is very upbeat and fun. Every Croatian knows how to dance kolo. It is something that you learn at a very young age.”

Analysis:

No Croatian festivity or celebration would be complete without kolo. Kolo, or circle dance, is the general term for Croatian folk dance that is performed in the four different regions of Croatia. Each region has their own version of kolo with their own styles of costumes or “nošnja.” Kolo is part of every Croatian social gathering like weddings, parties, and festivals. I personally have a special connection to kolo, as I grew up dancing since I was little with my sister and my friends. I have taught my non-Croatian friends the steps and they find it to be a lot of fun. Our parents and grandparents taught us all at a very young age the steps and songs that corresponded to each dance. Now that I am an adult, I have a greater appreciation that I can carry on my Croatian traditions and rituals to my children. Kolo was an activity that allowed my friends and I to grow closer as it united us together through our cultural ties.

For another version and further information regarding Croatian kolo dance, check out BBC’s article written by Rudolf Abraham:

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20140614-fifty-years-of-folk-dancing

Citation:

Abraham, Rudolf. “Fifty Years of Folk Dancing.” BBC. N.p., 14 June 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.

 

Photo credit: Nenad N. Bach 2009

Photo credit: Nenad N. Bach 2009

Folk Dance

Mayan Rain Dance

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in Mexico and currently lives in Brazil. She came to visit me.

Informant: There’s a thing that the mayans do for rain, there still are some mayans, but not many. They still do it, and if you go to see it, and it actually rains it’s kinda scary. They do this dance around the fire asking for rain from the rain god Chaac, and then they play this special instrument that is made out of cascaveles. It looks like a big bean with little seeds inside of it to make noise. It’s kinda like a morocco.

Collector: Have you ever seen the dance?

Informant: Yes I have. It’s really cool. They wear these typical outfits. It has like a feather hat and stuff, and they do these paintings on their face with red coloring. They make their own ink, too. I remember when I visited the pyramids, and my tour guide was like “This is where they make their own ink.” Anyways, so they sing in mayan. I can’t understand then, so I don’t know what they sing exactly. The dance itself is just a mixture of movements, nothing very particular. Oh, and it’s also from the south, I think. Yeah, definitely from the south.

Collector: Why do you like this particular piece of folklore?

Informant: Well, I like this one because of the one time that I went there and I saw them doing it, and then a few hours later it started raining. It was kinda scary at first, but I thought it was really cool. I think it’s interesting to to see how there’s different stuff and cultures inside of one country. And even though they’re praising someone who’s not my god, because I’m Catholic, it’s still cool to see how it works.

I think that this rain dance is particularly interesting because of how my friend told me that the one time she saw the Mayans doing the rain dance, it actually rained. I also then thought about how, if she believed in her God but saw the miracles of another God, would she change her beliefs? I thought it was really cool how even though she still believed in her own God, she could appreciate the different cultures and beliefs of others.

Folk Dance

Deer Dance

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in Mexico and currently lives in Brazil. She came to visit me.

Informant: So there’s a dance that the indigenous people do around the area where I’m from. It’s called the deer dance. Basically for the deer dance, they just do like this ritual for help for when they go to hunt deer. They dress up with a deer head for their head, and they dress normally in white clothes, and they have this special cascabeles on their ankles. There’s not any special significance to it, I think it’s just for sound. And then they start dancing, and when they dance they start to imitate the deer. And then they sing in their native language which is Yakki.

Collector: Do you know why they do a deer dance? Do they do dances for any other animals?

Informant: No, not really. They only have one for deer because deer is their primary source of meat. It’s a desert, so there aren’t many animals around. There’s only deer in the area, so that’s all that they hunt.

Collector: Why do you like this particular piece of folklore?

Informant: I like it because it’s from the natives of where im from, like the region of Mexico where I’m from. It’s part of my identity, even though I’m not an indian, but it still kinda is my identity. I learned about it when I was on a road trip close to my birth city and my uncle we saw it and pointed it out to me. We drove past a native place and we got to see it. They live right on the outskirts of the city. It kinda makes me feel proud that to be Mexican. It gives me a sense of home, a connection to where I’m from, seeing the natives of my region.

I found this one interesting because of how the natives adjusted their culture to the area around them. This dance has such a specific purpose – to help them hunt deer. Rather than having created a dance for food, or for success in hunting, they did one specifically for deer, because that’s the only animal around that area, and I find that fascinating. I also think it’s really cool how these people and my friend are from the same area, but yet they are still so different and she takes pride in these little differences in her culture.

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