Category Archives: Folk Dance

Yunnan/Sichuan Torch Festival

This is a story from when my informant, who is Chinese-American, went back to the rural town in Yunnan, China that her father’s family hails from when she was around 10 years old.


“So in Yunnan, China (and Sichuan, which I’ve learned from outside research) there’s this festival that happens at the end of summer called the torch festival, with a lot of stuff like people dancing around bonfires, lighting paper lanterns, lighting torches, etc. When I was younger and in China during that time, I participated in the festival at the rural town that my grandparents live in called Xiangyun. One of the activities I remember most about it is people gathering in a circle around the fire and jumping over it. I accidentally ran towards it as the same time as another person and burned a hole in my shoe haha.”


“When I asked my parents about it, they said it was to ward off insects as the harvest season started. When I did more research on it, I found out it was based around a specific legend of how a hero warded off a swarm of locusts with fire (I believe this story comes from the Yi people, but double check me on that). As far as I know, I think the custom is endemic to that specific area of Yunnan, cause I couldn’t find it in the resources on the torch festival online. Although I was only looking at sources in English, so that might’ve affected it.”


This festival shares a lot of similarities with many holidays that occur at the end of summer and usher in autumn and winter. It focuses on the presence of light and warmth (lighting torches and lanterns) to ward off the increased darkness of the following days and emphasizes creating a bountiful harvest by warding off harmful insects. The ritual of people jumping over a fire is interesting because it seems like people want to take the risk of being burned to heighten their spirits and get ready for the gloominess of winter.

A Turkmen Dance

Text: “Kushtdepdi probably started as a ritual dance among Turkmen tribes. They used to perform it at important gatherings and celebrations. The dance is really lively and expressive, with intricate steps and rhythmic moves that get everyone in a festive mood. The dance is essentially a reflection of Turkmen spirit and identity. The music we use is traditional Turkmen music, featuring instruments like the dutar and tuiduk, and the dancers wear these colorful, eye-catching costumes that are representative of our culture. The dance is usually performed at weddings and other big celebrations, and we tend to perform it at cultural events since it is pretty emblematic of Turkish culture.”

Context: My informant – a 23-year-old woman from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan – told me about a traditional dance, Kushtdepdi,  that is often performed in her home country. She explained to me that she herself has performed it an abundance of times, and emphasized that it usually would occur at celebrations or monumental events. She said that she and her classmates performed it together at her high school graduation, and she had learned how to dance it by watching it being performed all of her life. She said that alongside the dance being an important part of her culture, she also appreciates it because she feels that it has an essence of gender equality which isn’t always prevalent in Turkmenistan. She stressed how this is the one dance where men are not leading the women, and that everyone participating has an equal role in the performance. 

Analysis: The traditional dance Kushtdepdi from Turkmenistan embodies profound cultural values and expressions that transcend mere entertainment. Originating as a ritual dance among Turkmen tribes, Kushtdepdi has evolved into a vibrant and expressive art form that reflects the spirit and identity of the Turkmen people. The lively and rhythmic nature of Kushtdepdi, accompanied by traditional Turkmen music featuring instruments like the dutar and tuiduk, underscores the cultural richness embedded within this dance, and the colorful and eye-catching costumes worn by dancers further exemplify the deep-rooted connection to Turkmen cultural heritage and traditions.

What sets Kushtdepdi apart is its significance beyond celebratory events; it serves as a symbol of gender equality within Turkmen society. My informant’s perspective highlights how this dance provides a rare opportunity for women to take an equal and active role alongside men in the performance. In a cultural context where gender roles may be more traditionally defined, Kushtdepdi stands out as a representation of inclusivity and shared participation. My informant’s personal connection to Kushtdepdi, having performed it numerous times and appreciating its essence of gender equality, underscores the dance’s role in challenging and redefining cultural norms. By embracing Kushtdepdi as an integral part of her cultural identity, my informant celebrates its symbolic value in promoting inclusivity and diversity within Turkmen cultural expression.

Soulas Greek Festivals

Informant Information:

  • Nationality: Greek
  • Occupation: Professor
  • Primary language: Greek/  English 

Context & Text:

I.T spoke on village life in Rhodos, and going with family to the monastery of Soulas, where the yearly festivals were held. E.T said, “These festivals are lost in time, beyond recorded time in Greece, they have occurred continuously..” From the neothlithic period, Greece has had a religious component and a form of entertainment for people. The monastery has served as a temple for the god Dionysus, the god of wine and good luck. The monastery is located In the mounts, surrounded by pine trees. These festivals take place in July for the whole month, where the village people become united. These festivals also served as a time to establish friendships and relationships, especially since the whole island and other islands like Athens would go to compete in athletic games. I.T recalls his village making huts from the branches of the trees and staying there for a month, children playing in the stadium, and everyone would dance and sing. He described these festivals as a sort of business expo, where people would bring animals to sell, or ceramics, dry foods, etc. This location is a sight to marry because of the significance of the place to the whole island, I.T mentioned how his own daughter chose to marry there. At these festivals, traditional food was made and drinks were open to everyone, there was no age limit. However, drinks could only be offered by adults and the purpose of drinking alcohol was for appetite and good company. Wine wasn’t used to get drunk, if they got drunk they would not be allowed to drink again and they would lose respect for breaking a code of conduct. 


I, myself, have been to the monastery of Soulas on my first visit to the island of Rhodos, Greece. This is where I met I.T, and he was born and raised in Rhodos and knows all about its magnificent culture. Upon visiting this site, I was able to learn more about Greek culture, specifically in Rhodos. When researching this sight in particular, I found that inside the temple there is a sacred water source that is believed to hold healing properties. In the outside area surrounding the temple, there are various sports facilities in which the competitions occur for the athletic games. Additionally, I found that these annual festivals that take place in the summer are done in honor of Saint Soulas, and pilgrims travel there days in advance to prepare for the festival. I believe that the Greek people hold such a strong sense of national pride, and they love to honor their rich culture by opening their doors to everyone in events such as the festivals of Soulas. 

Danza Del Venado

Informant Info:

  • Nationality: Mexican 
  • Residence: Los Angeles
  • Primary language: Spanish


A.E chose to inform me of an ancient dance from la Mayos, he has known the dance for as long as he can remember in the region of Sonora. It’s the dance that represents the native indigenous Mayos de Navojoa, Sonora. He learned to dance “El Danza Del Venado,” in primary school(elementary). Indigenous Mayos came and taught him, he recalls them speaking their dialect. He competed with other schools and won medals for the dance. A.E heavily emphasized the importance of the dance costume. The costume consists of: a bandana on the head of the person, and above that a real, dried head of a deer. there was another bandana covering the mouth, and a “ropon de manta” covering the body. A belt made of leather that had multiple “pezunas de venado” which in English means the little hooves of the deer. From the big toe, to the ankles up to the calves, there are “tenabaris” that make noise. It is important to note that they dance barefoot. In the dance, they hold “Bullis” that come from a tree and have seeds inside that make noise. This dance is often performed in festivals, one of them being Sabado de Gloria and el Dia de San Juan. The dance is performed by only one person representing “El Venado” and is accompanied by four people playing drums and other instruments while singing the song “El Vendo Baila” in the Mayo dialect. 


After interviewing A.E, I conducted some research to find out more about the origins of this cultural dance. El danza del venado originated in Sonora, Mexico and contains pre-hispanic origins. The Yaqui people started this ritualistic dance, however; since the Mayo people were close neighbors to the Yaqui, they also adopted this dance into their culture. For context, the Mayo Indian people were located in southern Sonora, and northern Sinaloa. The Yaqui Indians were located in southern Sonora as well. This deer dance is performed as a way of honoring the deer that is being hunted for the purpose of feeding the folk group. It is a way of paying tribute to the sacrifice being made, which is the deer. This dance form is a deeply cultural and historical form of ritual and festival entertainment. While in modern times it is used predominantly as a source of entertainment, historically El Danza del Venado was used as a form of respecting nature, especially after taking something(such as hunting a deer).

Folklorico Dance

Informant Info:

  • Nationality: Mexican
  • Residence: Los Angeles
  • Primary language: English/ Spanish


E.H has been dancing folklorico since she was six years old. She is a Mexican American college student who has found an important aspect of her identity through folklorico. She has been a part of GFUSC(Grupo Folklorico at USC) since freshman year. She has found that it has been a way of embracing her Purépecha heritage and culture. Her passion for folklorico has led her to learn more about the history of folklorico, the different dance forms that pertain to folklorico, and the way dancers have to dress. E.H now teaches folklorico to elementary students, while also educating them in different regions. E.H and Grupo Folklorico at USC practice different dances for several weeks in order to prepare for the grand performance towards the end of the semester. Throughout the semester, they also hold small performances at different events and festivals to show their appreciation for their culture. E.H is a dance instructor, and she makes sure to teach steps that pertain the specific region in order to maintain as much cultural originality as possible. E.H told me that not anyone can just go ahead and teach Folklorico, one must be educated on the history of the dance form and the different styles of dance it entails.


I hold a personal connection with folklorico, I also dance folklorico with GFUSC. I originally joined for the purpose of embracing my Mexican heritage and learning to dance such a beautiful art form. Through this club, I was able to learn different regions and their distinct styles of dance. Some of these include Sinaloa, Veracruz, Yucatan, Jalisco, etc. Each region has different steps and “vestuario,” or clothing. For example, Sinaloa holds more of the traditional folklorico elements in the dresses, they are very colorful and flowy dresses. Meanwhile, Yucatan has a more box-like structure in the dress, they are not flowy, and are typically a satin white with embroidered flowers. The songs are also picked out depending on the region they pertain to. Performing with other Hispanic and Latino students has allowed me and many others to find a home and community here at USC.