Category Archives: Folk Dance

Taiwanese Festival: Lunar New Year

Nationality: Taiwanese
Primary Language: Taiwanese, Mandarin
Age: 46
Occupation: Branch Manager
Residence: Taipei, Taiwan
Performance Date: 19 April 2024

Tags: Lunar, New year, firecrackers, red, family, Asia


Lunar New Year (also called Chinese New Year) is one of, if not the, most famous festivals/traditions in all of Asia. Starting at the turn of the Lunar Calendar (around February in the Gregorian calendar), families from all around Asia come together to enjoy good food, share fortune with each other, and have good times. Various activities before and after the main celebration include cleaning the house to let the good fortune inside, putting scrolls and characters on doors and walls, decorating various places with red, and lighting fireworks. The latter two are in relation to the mythological story of Lunar New Year, about a fierce beast named Nian who would come and terrorize the local people before they warded him off with firecrackers and the color red. Now, elders give the young red envelopes filled with money (usually after a short give-receive ritual of sorts), eat foods like dumplings in the shape of money and other such cuisine that invoke good fortune, and have an overall wonderful time with each other.


C was born and raised in Taiwan, and has traveled the world various times due to her work and studies. She regularly participates in Taiwanese and Asian festivities with friends and family.


I put “Taiwanese Festival” in the title, but really, any sort of Western Asian country would do due to how widespread this particular festival is. Virtually every single action one takes and food one eats can be linked to a specific belief or superstition, making it one of the busiest times of the year for Asians due to how much work gets put into everything. It truly is a showing of how various different people from different backgrounds can come together and share in one traditional time.

May Day Dance Performance

Ritual Dance Performance:

At the informant’s elementary school in Hawaii, every May Day there is a celebration where the students perform traditional Hawaiian song and dance.


The informant went to elementary school in Hawaii and moved to California in the fourth grade. Within her four years of elementary school in Hawaii, this annual celebration was a very big deal, and she spent one day each week practicing Hula throughout the year in preparation for the May Day dance performances. 


The performance of traditional Hawaiian song and dance on May Day in the informant’s elementary school, as well as the largeness of the May Day celebration, is a clear example of a folk group actively keeping their culture alive. Especially in places like Hawaii that have become part of larger countries like the United States, it is evidently very important to find ways to keep cultural practices thriving. It is clear that celebrations like these are done with the intention to pass culture along to the youth, as well as to celebrate said culture together. Performances of traditional song and dance provide community members with a sense of shared identity as well, likely aiding in making the informant’s school’s May Day celebration so excitedly anticipated throughout each year. Celebrations involving song and dance are very good ways of keeping culture alive and celebrated, because in music and dance performances, everyone involved can participate to some extent, whether they are the performers or audience members.

La Danza a la Santa Cruz

Every year, around late April or early May, my family both those in Mexico and the ones here in the U.S. host a dance celebration. It’s purpose it to commemorate the Holy Cross (as we are Catholic) and do so by dancing. Many members of my family dress up in red skirts and white shirts decorated with sequins and layers of thin, hollow wooden tubes to make sound as they dance. They also wear huaraches and hats adorned with ribbons and paper flowers. The ceremony begins during daytime mass in which dancers march into the church and then we hear mass. Later on we gather at a ranch nearby where the dancing continues, now with food all around and the place decorated with papel picado. The dance is led by the music of a single violin and the metal sonajas that follow the violin’s rhythm. the dancers are formed from tallest to shortest. The dancing lasts all evening until dawn with small breaks in between. During the breaks, “morenos” (people in costumes and masks who also dance) put on silly productions. Also during the breaks, other dances are put on until the main one resumes. Those who aren’t dancing typically sit around the dancers to talk and gossip, eat food, or simply observe the dancers. At the front of the dancing area, there is an make-shift alter. Here, candles are lit and images of saints and holy figures are on display along with the most important aspect: a human-sized cross decorated with flowers. People take turns holding up the cross all night.

This celebration has been a part of my family for over 120 years where it was originally held only in Mexico. Family here in the U.S. often make a visit to Mexico in order to celebrate over there. It’s roots are based in religious devotion and especially in Latin America, devotion is done in a variety of ways and often to different people/things. In this case, it’s the holy cross, a highly revered symbol in Christianity.

These celebrations are more personal to my family than they are a widespread national or even local thing like many other religious celebrations. I’ve only ever heard of another group of people doing something similar to this and they usual wear blue instead of red and come from another town in Mexico near where my family comes from. Having spent every year, especially my childhood years seeing this family tradition, I’ve felt so in touch with my Mexican roots as it means getting to be a part of something so unique and personal although I myself never got the hang of the dancing part. People like my dad and uncles show extreme pride and devotion towards this celebration as I’ve noticed that it not only signifies their pride within national or religious identity, but also within their family itself.


Context: My informant is a direct family member

My informant says that Tinikling is “like a dance in the Philippines, you do with bamboo sticks”. She describes it as a traditional dance where two people are supposed to hold very long bamboo sticks on the opposite ends and there are two dancers coordinating together in the middle. It can be a very difficult dance, and it is a lot like a game. But it is still a performance.

My informant recalls that a lot of Filipinos kids (mostly girls) might learn this in school, or even outside of school because of the game aspect. And she notes that this tradition along with many Filipino traditions may stem from Spanish culture due to colonization.

It can be difficult to do it correctly, and you could easily trip if you and your partner make a mistake. But a lot of Filipinos have fun with this traditional dance.

She does remember this dance from her early years in school where it is thought so that it can be performed in a yearly school performance or presentation. She also interprets this dance as a fun part of Filipino culture. Because it is not strict to just performance but because it can be done by anyone even without it being something that has to be presented in a certain way.


Tinikling is certainly a folk tradition and folk dance. The dance is also performed at festivals.

Tinikling seems to be a part of Filipino culture for a very long time. And although it is a part of the history of colonization that the Philippines has endured, the tradition has seemed to be fully embraced and seen as something endearing and fun. It has been removed from the possible pain that the colonization has caused. Because the dance is flexible in its form, it can be done “formally” and traditionally through performances and yearly performances done at schools but it is also done at the homes in the Philippines or even right by the streets.

As my informant mentions, this dance is taught at many Filipino schools, it is well-known by many. The folk dance seems to be carried by pride, fun and even nostalgia. If this dance was not taught to someone in the Philippines, someone who does know could gladly teach it.

Seattle Autumn Harvest Festival Social

This story is from a Chinese-American friend from Seattle whose mother works for Microsoft. She is a first generation Chinese-American, with both her parents immigrating from China before she was born. The story is about her experience watching her mother dance in the Chinese dance troupe at a big social for the Asian community of Seattle to celebrate the Autumn Harvest Festival.


“Every few times a year, my whole family attends my mother’s dance performance to be her biggest fans. Her dance troupe dances for Chinese festivals, from New Year’s celebration to the Autumn Harvest Festival. When it becomes 8 pm, the light shines on her dance troupe, and she shines the brightest with the prettiest face and prettiest embroidered dress. The performance is an accumulation of all of her love and passion for Chinese dance. She is a busy working mom, who barely has enough time to sleep, but she insists on tirelessly improving dancing because it is her passion.

My family would feel inclined to say that her dance performances are the magnum opus of these events, but my personal and secret favorite part in volunteering in the events. My mother has danced in these festivals for pretty much all my life. I have attended every single one! These festivals would take place in large rented out churches to multiple entire buildings, but they were filled in and out with celebrations of Chinese culture. There were many stages that held skits (I was forced to be part of some before), Chinese puppetry, and many booths that teach Chinese art. When I was younger, I was the one of the children who would run to every corner of the event, collecting every free stuff, getting the sickest face painting, and watch every skit that related to things I enjoyed. My parents weren’t able to keep up with my enthusiasm, so I ran around with my fellow friends.

When I became older, I attended every festival as a volunteer, and brings me lots of happiness to bring the same joy I felt in the past to other children. I am proud to hold the title as the “cool face paint sister who can draw anything.” After being unable to take a break for hours as the lines keep building (i remember eating steamed dumplings covered in paint residue), many of the children and even adults get some sort of mark of my artistry on them. It made me even happier that they loved it after completion. After around like 7 hours of volunteering, I finally get to rest at 8pm though! And watch my beautiful mother dance.”


“This event began to recently be sponsored by Microsoft because all of the performances are usually done by people who work for Microsoft or their kids, and sometimes people who are friends with those Microsoft families cuz in Seattle pretty much all Asian families work for Microsoft or are friends with someone who does. So it’s become a thing where all of the Asian population of Seattle shows up.”


In my friend’s beautiful story, I noticed that there’s a strong family and community element to this event. All ages and occupations, from working mothers to families to little kids, are involved and there seems to be an event for every group (eg. face painting for the kids.) Because it’s a family event, there’s also a strong emphasis on passing down Asian/Chinese culture to the next generation so that the kids who grow up in the United States are still connected with their heritage. Furthermore, I thought it was really interesting that Microsoft itself recognized and supported the Asian community in its workforce, something that was completely optional for them to do. Perhaps Microsoft thought that supporting this community was important to unify company culture and present an image of itself as culturally aware and tolerant.