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

Myths and Monsters of the Orient

History of the Show

'Myths and Monsters of the Orient' premiered in 2005. We got the inspiration to create this show one night when we were comparing stories from our childhoods in different countries about monsters and creatures. We were talking about strange and wonderful characters that we had heard stories about or read about in books. When we showed each other the special movements and funny noises that each of these creatures made, we had so much fun that we decided to make a performance about them. We especially wanted to create a show that had lots of opportunity for participation, as students had really enjoyed taking the roles of 'The Ten Burning Suns' in our dance-drama The Moon Lady in our 2004 program.

Myths and Monsters features three tales from Asia:

Topeng Tua

Bali has several forms of mask dancing. One of the most popular is Topeng, in which stories based on Balinese family stories (babad) are portrayed via several characters. Topeng Tua (the old man) is a character who usually appears first in a Topeng performance. Although the characterisation can be either dignified or funny depending on the character of the mask, it is usually an affectionate portrait of old age. Soepri's performance shows a sad yet comical story of an old man who reminisces about his earlier days as a dancer. He begins to dance, and the music gradually becomes faster. For a moment he feels young again, but he quickly loses his stamina and his balance, and has to motion to the musicians to slow down. Near the end of the dance, he plucks a hair from his head, sees that it is grey, and realizes that his best days are behind him.

Soepri wears the complex and elaborate Balinese Topeng costume including:

Soepri's Costume

Soepri's costume was made for him in Bali, where his wig and mask were blessed by his teacher, the Balinese priest, Bapak I Gede Musti. Now that they have been blessed, the wig and hairpiece must not be worn by anyone other than Soepri. This photo features Soepri's teachers mask, which has been stained brown over time by incense smoke. The mask you see Soepri wearing is still bright white as it is brand new.


Tokkaebi: Gremlins of the Night (Korea)

When a little Korean girl doesnt heed her mother's warning and stays out after dark playing games, 'yeun play', (paper planes), 'jae ki', (hackey sack) and 'gong gi' (jacks), this is what she sees!

Tokkaebi, the best-loved and most feared characters of Korean folklore, are usually eight or nine feet tall and covered with coarse, dark-red hair. They have big frightening eyes, ugly sharp teeth, only three fingers on each hand and three toes on each foot. They sometimes have horns as well, and carry special Tokkaebi clubs studded with spikes as weapons.

At night, Tokkaebi climb aboard broomsticks and leave their caves to indulge in various mischievous deeds. Luckily, they don’t cause harm, but are playful and funny. They especially love to drink, sing and dance. They are full of curiosity, but also very forgetful. If there's one creature that Tokkaebi don’t like it is chickens- especially the call of the rooster that signals morning. When the cock crows, the Tokkaebi scatter as they can't live in daylight.

Tokkaebi style patterns can be seen all over Korea, in storybooks, on tiles and bricks for roofs, walls, on tile floors, in drawings and paintings. Here are two different pictures of Tokkaebi; a cartoon version and a traditional version.

Example of TokkaebiExample of Tokkaebi


Visual arts
Imagine your own gremlin of the night. How would you draw a character that might come out at night near your house? What would it be called?

Write your own story about what might happen when this gremlin comes out near your house.


Na Zha and the Dragon King (China)

Na Zha and the Dragon KingThis legend goes back 3000 years. The military general Li Jing and his wife had three very brave sons. The youngest son, Na Zha, was the most special one of the three. It was said that he was in his mothers womb for three years and he was born with lots of special treasures; a golden universe ring, which followed him from the day he was born and a firewheel, which he could throw and catch as fast as lightning. This picture shows Na Zha as a cartoon character. He is always dressed to look very cute- almost girl-like, with buns and ribbons on his head.

Na Zha hears that Dragon King from the Sea Palace has many special magic weapons, so he decides to pay the Sea Palace a visit. Na Zha hopes to play with the weapons and meet the magical creatures who live there as soldiers and servants of the Dragon King. These creatures look like humans even though they are sea-creatures and live underwater.

On the way, Na Zha stops at the seashore close to the Dragon Palace and begins to play with his magic ribbon in the water. The red dye from the ribbon suddenly makes the sea turn red, and its movement causes the Sea Palace to shake all over. The Dragon King gets upset at this intrusion and orders his Scallop and Turtle Soldiers, assisted by an army of small fish, to go and investigate.

Na Zha tells the creatures that he wants to play with the Dragon King's weapons, so they bring him many to choose from. He doesn’t like any of these, but instead chooses a special magic stick, the Dragon King's favourite weapon. This stick can be small enough to fit instead an ear as well as big enough to hold up a Palace. Unfortunately, this stick is also part of the support for the Dragon Palace building. If Na Zha takes this weapon, the Palace will fall down. The Dragon King tries to stop Na Zha taking the stick, but can't get hold of it. To try and get more power, the Dragon King changes back into his original form of a dragon. Again and again he tries to reclaim the stick from Na Zha, but each time he fails. Na Zha hides and teases the Dragon. In the end, Na Zha escapes with the stick and the Dragon King is left angry.


Science activity:
Sea-creature studies. The Dragon Palace dance includes sea creatures that live in the sea near China. You might like to create a dance about creatures that live under the sea in Australia.

Visual art:
Draw your creature. Make sure you think about the colours of its body, its shape and the feel of it. Does it have scales or smooth skin? You could also draw its environment- show whether it lives in rockpools, in a cave or perhaps it too lives in the Dragon Palace.

Choreograph (make up) your own dance about underwater sea creatures. Using the movements of the sea creature you have chosen, you could create your own sea creature dance. Remember what you saw the Turtle and the Scallop doing:
Your sea creature might make some of these movements, or it might make some different ones.
Moving words: Begin by thinking of words that describe the way your creature moves. Write these down.
Developing a movement repertoire: Then one at a time, try making these movements- how can you use your body to show the way your creature moves?
Create a movement sequence: Now think about how those movements could be connected to create a sequence. What would the creature do first? Then? And after that?
Dance form: solo or group work
Then decide whether you want to make a solo dance (by yourself) or work with other classmates to create a group dance. A small group, between 3-4 people is usually best for beginning choreographers.
A starting point:
Think about where your creature might be at the beginning of the dance. Decide the shape you will make in that place: will you be tucked inside your shell perhaps, or peeping out from behind a rock? Decide what movements you want to include in the dance- for example, will you be searching or finding some food?

In the middle:
Group work: Will all the creatures in your group make the same movements at the same time, will some of them be doing the same thing but before or after the others? Will some be doing different movements?

Experiment with different combinations. You can make the same sequence of movements over and over in your dance, or you might like to make lots of different ones.

Movement qualities: Make sure you use your movements to show the qualities of the creature's movements that you are thinking about. That is, show how the bird moves.

Body parts: what part of the creature's body moves; fins, shell, head, eyes?
How do they move: do the fins flap, do its eyes swivel, does its body stretch out and in?
Dynamics: Are the movements you are showing quick or slow? strong or light? direct or indirect? bound or free flowing?
Levels: does the creature swim high, low or in between?
Space: does the creature swim fly all around the sea or does it have a particular pathway or direction?
Relationship: does the creature swim by itself, or in a school?

Finishing your dance:
When you have included all the movements you would like to make, or when you feel your dance is long enough, you need to think of a way to finish it. What shape would you like to make for the end: the same shape as at the beginning or a different one? Where will you be when you finish: do you want to be back where you started or in a different place?

Will all the creatures be in the same place, or in different positions?

Make sure you come to a complete stop and a hold your position for at least 10 seconds at the end so your audience knows that your dance has finished.

Music accompaniment: find some music to accompany your bird dance. You might some recorded music that is suitable for a dance about the sea, or you may have some classmates who could make some music for you.

Research project:
Animal dances
You have seen dances today that feature animals and sea-creatures: the Dragon Palace dance from China and the Tokkaebi dance from Korea. People in other cultures often create dances about animals. You might have seen Aboriginal performers dance about kangaroos or emus. Find out more about animal and creature dances in other cultures.


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