Kita Dance Company

Teachers' Notes

:: Performing Arts of China
:: Celebrations
:: Tricky Tales
:: Martial Funk: Martial Arts and Dance
:: Myths and Monsters of the Orient
:: Tales of the Moon... and other oriental adventures
:: Journey through Asia

Journey through Asia: a glimpse into the rich cultures of Asia

Journey through Asia features the performing arts and traditional cultures of various Asian countries, with particular focus on Korea, Indonesia, China, Taiwan and the Philippines. The program includes dances performed for a variety of traditional functions, including

The program's visual appeal is extended by Kita's collection of stunning traditional costumes, musical instruments and props.


C.S.F Key Learning Areas

Studies of Asia: A Statement for Australian Schools stipulates that 'aspects of studies of Asia should be incorporated into existing course content across the curriculum. All students should have the opportunity to experience some Asia-related learning' (p. 10).

Curriculum Focus

Chinese Dance

Chinese dance dates back nearly 5,000 years. In old China, dancers belonged to the slave class and their chief function was to perform in the courts for royalty and the nobles. As in most cultures, Chinese dance is closely linked to and reflective of life experiences and concerns. Dances can be divided into four main categories

The Han make up the majority of China's population. The rest of the population is made up of 55 ethnic groups, which includes larger minority groups such as the Mongols, the Dai, and the Miao. Each of these cultural groups has its own history, and language, distinct customs and style of dress and rich and distinctive dance tradition. Nearly 1,000 folk dances that reflect the lifestyles and customs of a people are performed throughout the nation.

Among the most common are the Han people's much beloved Yangge Dance, Dragon Dance and Lion Dance, the Colorful Lantern Dance and the Flower-Drum Dance, where the performers accompany themselves with drums while they dance. The Miao (also known as Hmong) people of southwestern China developed a lively form of responsive singing and competitive dance. Because of their island environment, the aborigines of Taiwan created hand-holding line dances as part of a harvest ritual. Other ethnic dances include the vigorous Mongolian Andai Dance; the Xianzi Dance, a Tibetan dance where the dancers wave their long sleeves; the Sainaimu Dance, an enthusiastic Uygur dance with a characteristic neck movement; the Yi people's Courting Dance, where the dancers dance while clapping their hands; the Dai people's graceful Peacock Dance, marked by the undulations of the waist; the Korean people's Fan Dance; the Miao people's Reedpipe Dance; the Yao people's Long Drum Dance; the Li people's Straw Hat Dance; the Zhuang people's Shoulder Pole Dance; and the Tujia people's Hand-Waving Dance. Kita's performance will include at least two of these different Chinese dances.

Chinese orchestras include percussion, string and woodwind instruments. Traditional music has a distinctive sound, mainly due to the use of the pentatonic scale (which sounds as though one were playing only on the black notes of the piano). Although the western scale is now popular in China, the music does retain the traditional pentatonic sound. Gongs and drums play an important role in Chinese music, and many of the instruments are modern variations of stringed instruments that have been popular for centuries.

Indonesian Dance

Baris Dance

Baris is character study of a warrior as he prepares for and engages in combat. The word baris means ' in line', 'military formation'. This is is a male dance which incorporates all the basic movements of Balinese dance and is taught to all male Balinese dance students.

In Bali, the legong is the archetypical feminine dance, while the baris typifies the strong elegance of the male. Solo baris is normally performed by young boys. Baris is a very challenging dance physically so dancers have to undergo rigorous training to obtain the necessary skill and flexibility. To be able to dance the baris, one must be able to sit on one's heels keeping the knees spread wide apart in line with the body.

The music for the baris, played by a gamelan gong, reflects the steps and the moods portrayed by the dancer. Every part of his body, from his toes to the tips of his fingers, is in action during the dance. Every muscle of his face is controlled to show all his emotions; the anger of a warrior, admiration and wonder at an invisible magic world all around him, surprise and rage at imaginary enemies, pleasure, tenderness, and love.

As the music grows more violent, the dancer becomes more and more tense, raising himself on his toes until he gives the impression of growing in height. His eyes seem ready to jump from their sockets, his whole body trembles, making his headdress shake violently. Raised on his toes and with his whole body in high nervous tension, he slaps his thigh and points an accusing finger at his enemy. With wild yells of 'Wahl', 'Adoh, adoh!', he draws his kris (sword) and struts aggressively towards his enemy.

In Kita's performance you will see the solo baris, but it can be performed as a duet. In this case, the dancers perform a stylized duel to music with tiger-like grace. They dance towards each other, cursing, and eventually clash. The end comes when one of the dancers is defeated. The baris gede is often performed in ritual feasts held in villages and at important cremations. This is a stately war dance in which ten or twelve middle-aged warriors with their beads covered with flowers, wearing magic scarves, and carrying long spears tipped with peacock feathers, dance in double line, grimacing and striking heroic poses until the music becomes violent. They then enact a pretend battle with their black and silver spears. The ritual baris gede, baris tumbak, has an exorcizing character.

Discussion Questions:


Research project:

Find out all you can about war dances from other cultures.

Visual Art:

Draw a baris gede: 'ten or twelve middle-aged warriors with their beads covered with flowers, wearing magic scarves, and carrying long spears tipped with peacock feathers, dance in double line, grimacing and striking heroic poses until the music becomes violent'


Create your own baris dance: a solo, like you saw Nixson performing, or a baris gede with ten friends.

Create your own accompaniment: Some members of the class could create music to accompany the baris dance. Loud percussion instruments like drums, gongs and a gamelan (a marimba or glockenspiel would be a reasonable substitute) would make a strong scary sound.


Sabilulungan - Co-operation, one goal

Sabilulungan is a modern version of a traditional dance performed to celebrate the ritual of rice harvest in Indonesia. The dance includes movements associated with the hand-harvesting process including scything (cutting the rice stalks), pounding (to loosen the husks from the rice) and winnowing (blowing the husks off the rice grains). The dance finishes with the dancers performing a clapping game, using their hands slapping different body parts to make body percussion.. This section represents the games played by farmers to celebrate finishing the arduous harvesting process. The clapping rhythm gets faster and faster, as the dancers challenge each other to keep in time.

Discussion Questions:


Visual Arts:

Draw your own celebration: Draw a picture of a time you have danced at a celebration. Make sure you include who was there, what you were doing, what you were wearing.

Tari Temperung - Coconut Dance

This is a choreographed version of an Indonesian playground game, in which children play together making musical and movement patterns with coconut shells. This game is roughly the equivalent of our skippy, or elastics, games in which co-operation, team work, co-ordination, fitness, rhythm and quick thinking are all important.

The same song is used for this dance all across Indonesia, but in each area the movements and patterns are different, as children create their own games.

Korean Dance

Salpuri Dance - Spirit-Cleansing Dance

Salpuri means to wash away evil spirits. In shamanism, the indigenous belief system of Korea, a shaman performs a 'gut' or exorcism to receive power and energy from the 'spirit world'. Then the shaman dances to rid him or herself of 'Sal", which can be thought of as a curse, evil spell or hex. Salpuri is a dance to banish the Sal. This process was usually led by shaman, and was the climax of shaman rituals. The ritual uses a white silk scarf as a key prop. The dancer, attuning herself to the sorrowful shinawi music, performs in a trance- like state, portraying sadness and anxiety in every step.

Salpuri was performed in shaman rites accompanied by the rhythms of shinawi (featuring an extensively improvised ensemble with wind and percussion instruments) to attract the interest of spectators. The salp'uri's rhythmic normal cycle starts out with slow-paced shinawi rhythms and gradually builds up speed which conveys the dancer's excitement.

Salpuri dance has three stages, following the order of Korean traditional music. The dancer starts with slow movements. The action accelerates as the dancer looks up to Heaven, expressing his or her wishes by spreading a long scarf, and purifies his or her mind through graceful dancing movements. At the end of the dance, the performer returns to the same spot on the stage as where the dance began. In an emotional context however, the dancer does not return to the same location. S/he is in a very different place now, with his or her mind refreshed. This, the end of this dance is a new beginning, a representation of the annual cycle of seasons and an expression of the Korean people's awareness of life and death.

Discussion questions:

Pom Ui Sori - Spirit of Spring

This dance is performed as a celebration of the end of winter. Korean winters are long and hard, so when the snow begins to melt, the rivers flow again and flowers begin to bloom, Korean people are very joyful. The dancer expresses her joy though her movements.

So Go Book Chum - Small Hand-drum dance

So go book chum is performed as part of Pungmul, also known as Nong-Ak, a grand outdoor performance of Korean folk music in which dances, songs and dramas are intermingled. It is roughly equivalent to a western musical, but has very different aims and origins. Performing pungmul expresses wishes for a rich harvest of grain and a good catch of fish. It also promotes friendship among villagers, while encouraging co-operation and a sense of identity as Koreans.

Pungmul may be performed when villagers gather and share drinks after harvest in the autumn, or in the spring when farmers transplant paddy rice and wish for a good harvest. It is sometimes performed at annual events or on holidays. Pungmul teams start their performance at a playground or a community hall and then visit every house in the village. Each house offers food, drinks, grain or honey. Cash is donated for the benefit of the community. Several musical instruments are used, such as a small gong and an hourglass shaped drum called Jangu, a gong, a small hand drum and the flutelike taepyeongso.


Discussion questions:

So Go Book Chum is a drum dance performed as part of festival parade, when people in Korean villages go from house to house singing and playing music.

Puchae Chum - Fan Dance

The focus of the Puchae Chum fan dance is the patterns made by the dancers. When the dance is performed in a group, dancers in pairs make the form of a butterfly, or several dancers may make a circle and turn while creating a flower. In the fan dance, as in many other Korean dances, basic Korean breathing, rhythms, hand movement and steps are featured. The fan is made of paper or thin cloth on which flowers, especially magnolias are drawn. The tip of the fan is decorated with feathers dyed pink or red.

The dancers' costume is a exactly like outfits worn by ladies of the nobility centuries ago. The headpiece is called a jokduri, which is also worn by brides on their wedding day, and Dangui, which is the jacket with wide sleeves. The jacket she wears in other dances is a jeogori with two long ribbons that are tied to form an otgoreum knot, a full length, high waist wrap-around skirt called a chima, a durumagi, complete with beoseon, white cotton socks.

This outfit, known as hanbok, has been handed down in the same form for men and women for hundreds of years. Traditional hanbok is usually worn on special days like the lunar New Year holidays and Chuseok, Autumnal Full Moon Harvest festival, and family festivities such as Hwangap, which marks one's 60th birthday.

Philippine Dance


Tinikling originated in the islands of Leyte in the Visayan Islands. It is the most popular and best known of the Philippine dances, and honoured as the Philippine national dance. It is named after tikling birds, who make very unique movements, as they walk between grass stems, run over tree branches and dodge bamboo traps set by rice farmers. Dancers imitate the tikling bird's legendary grace and speed by skillfully manoeuvering between large bamboo poles. Tinkling means "bamboo dance" in English.

There are other stories associated with Tinikling, which have been passed down through oral histories and folklore. One of the stories of the Tinikling's origin may be made up, a fact, or part of a legend. The story says that the Tinikling was started by the people who worked on the fields and paddies in the Philippines. When the Spaniards came from Spain and conquered the Philippines, the natives were sent to haciendas. They lost control of their land and had to work all day to please the Spaniards. The people of the Philippines worked in the fields and paddies for nearly four hundred years between 1500-1898.

The people who worked too slowly would be sent out of the paddies for punishment. Their punishment was to stand between two bamboo poles cut from the grove. Sometimes, the sticks would have thorns jutting from their segments. The poles were then clapped to beat the native's feet. By jumping when the bamboo sticks were apart, the natives tried to escape this cruel form of punishment. This type of punishment became a cycle - the more bruised the person's feet were, the less work he would do, the less work he would do, the more punishment. It is said that from a distance, the people who were receiving the beating looked like the heron. By practicing to escape the bamboo sticks during punishment, the Tinikling soon became a challenge, an art, and a dance.

The Tinikling is performed on certain Sundays in the Philippines. Dancers jump nimbly between the bamboo sticks hoping to escape its ferocious bite. But now that it is no longer a punishment, the sticks are smooth and the clapping is gentle. The Tinikling has truly become a dance!


Many of these resources are available from the Language and Multicultural Education Resource Centre, 150 Palmerston St, Carlton Ph: 9349 1418





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