Mongolian Folk Dancing

The informant, RD, describes a mongolian dance class she took when she was younger. The dance class took place in Palo Alto, California. RD is of Mongolian and Chinese decent: her father is from Mongolia and her mother is from China.

Where did you learn the dance?

RD: “I was in a mongolian dance class. We had these velvet, red towels with gold chain and coins on them  on them and you had to twirl them around your fingers. It was like a big choreographed dance, there was a group of us”

How did you find out about the class?

RD: “My mom found out through her church I think”

Did you ever perform the dance, like at a festival?

RD: “We would perform in an auditorium for our parents. It was pretty much only parents there, not like an outside group of people”

Was everyone who participated Mongolian?

RD: “Mainly Chinese. Everyone was either Mongolian or Chinese. There was definitely no white people, they would definitely get freaked out by the music (laughs)”

What was the music like?

RD: “We danced to traditional Chinese/Mongolian music. It had a mixture of both languages, so parts would be Mongolian and parts would be Chinese. I think the background was traditional Chinese instruments.”

Is Chinese and Mongolian a common mix in Palo Alto?

RD: “No no no, it was just headed by a committee that had some Chinese people and some Mongolian so they kind of fused the two cultures. I don’t think I’ve ever met another person who is mixed Chinese and Mongolian, it’s not common. Everyone was one or the other.”

I thought this was particularly interesting because of the mix of Chinese and Mongolian culture. The fact that the music being used was a mixture of Mongolian and Chinese was very interesting, especially given the fact that RD said she had never met another person who was both Mongolian and Chinese. It seemed very unlikely that everyone there was either separately Chinese or Mongolian when the performance itself was a very balanced mixture of the two. I also thought it was interesting that she thought it was funny that white people, or members of any other ethnicities, would be a part of the dance. When I first heard her describe it I thought it was for the purpose of sharing their cultural heritage but based on the performances it seems like its main purpose was to preserve and pass on their traditions.