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

Tales of the Moon... and other oriental adventures

Kita Company presents a window into the vibrant cultures of Asia through the performing arts, with traditional stories about the moon and its importance in the cycle of life.  Highlights include the Chinese dance-drama of 'The Moon Lady', the Korean festival celebration, 'Welcoming the Full Moon' and the quaint Vietnamese farmers dance ‘Ly Chieu Chieu‘. Kita's superb costumes, highly skilled performers and enchanting stories make 'Tales of the Moon', a wonderful adjunct to studies of Asia and the performing arts

The show includes many opportunities for participation.  Students might learn the movements of the (Korean) rabbits in the moon making ricecakes, shoot down the (Chinese) Ten Burning Suns or sing the melody of a (Vietnamese) farmers song.  The program's visual appeal is extended by Kita's collection of stunning traditional costumes, musical instruments and props.  A range of workshop options in dance, drama, music and visual arts is available to complement students' learning through the performance.


VELS  Key Learning Areas:

The Arts,  SOSE,  LOTE, English

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

DancerTales of the Moon Program



Tari Merak - The Peacock Dance (Indonesia)

Tari Merak is a traditional village dance from the Sunda region of western Java, performed only by women at festivals and special events. Sometimes it was performed for the King and Queen in kraton (the royal courts). 'Tari' means dance, and 'merak' peacock. The dance is inspired by the beautiful movements of a peacock, while also symbolising the beauty of nature and its creatures. The gestures of the peacock are combined with the classical movements of Javanese dance, making the dance a colourful expression of proud peacocks showing their beautiful feathers.

As you watch the dance, see if you can recognise movements that the peacock makes. If you look closely, you will see them showing off their feathers, flicking and shaking their feathers, fighting, pecking and laughing. Interestingly, while the dancers are all women, they are actually showing the movements of the male birds. The female bird, the peahen, is much less glamorous.


Science activity:

Bird studies Tari Merak is a dance about birds that live in western Java in Indonesia.

Research peacocks and birds in your area: Find out some more about peacocks.

Draw your own peacock and peahen and show how different their feathers are.

Visual art:

Draw your bird. Make sure you think about the colours of its feathers, legs and beak; the length and shape of its beak. You could also draw its environment- - show whether it lives in trees, in the mountains, by the sea or in your garden or in the park.


Create your own bird costume. In Tari Merak, the dancers wore wings that looked like feathers of the peacock. The children in this photo went to the beach near where they live in Beaumaris, Melbourne and watched some terns. Then they created their own simple costumes and beaks out of material and cardboard.


Choreograph (make up) your own dance. Using the movements of the bird you have chosen, you could create your own bird dance. Remember what you saw the Peacock doing: pecking, spreading its feathers, teasing, etc. Your bird 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 bird 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 bird moves? The children in this photo used the words, 'fly, drop, roll and soar' about gannets they saw swooping across the surface of the sea.

Create a movement sequence: Now think about how those movements could be connected to create a sequence.

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 bird might be at the beginning of the dance. The children from Black Rock imagined they were perched on a rock at the end of the pier. Decide the shape you will make in that place:

In the middle:
Group work: Will all the birds 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 bird's movements that you are thinking about. That is, show how the bird moves.

Body parts: what part of the bird's body moves; wings, beak, legs? How do they move: do the wings flap, its beak peck, does it stand on one leg?

Dynamics: Are the movements you are showing quick or slow? strong or light? direct or indirect? bound or free flowing?

Levels: does the bird fly high, low or in between?

Space: does the bird fly all around the sky or does it have a particular pathway or direction?

Relationship: does the bird fly by itself, or in a flock?

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 birds 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. The children in this photo used music by Steve Falk The Marimba Project ((bought from the ABC Shop). Other Australian musicians who make bird music include Steve Parrish Cry of the River Forest, and Howlin Wind The Twelve Apostles.


The Moon Lady (China)

China: August Moon Festival

The August Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the biggest holidays for Chinese people. The other most celebrated holidays are Chinese New Year and the Dragon Boat Festival. August Moon Festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, which is celebrated in Australia on 15th August. On this day, which comes at the end of the harvest season, Chinese families celebrate the end of the harvest season with a big feast that includes all kinds of delicious food, especially mooncakes. Friends and relatives also send mooncakes to each other as a way of giving thanks.

Chinese legends say that the moon is at its brightest and roundest on this day. The word 'round' has a very special meaning to Chinese people. Because of 'the roundest moon', they have a holiday to gather all family members together to sit and watch the moon. Under the bright autumn moon, friendships are made and renewed. It is a perfect time to fall in love. Chinese poets write about long lost lovers finding their way to each other on this special night.

The August Moon Festival is often called the Women's Festival. The moon symbolises beauty and elegance. While Westerners worship the sun (yang or male) for its power, people in the Far East admire the moon. The moon is the 'yin' or female principle and it is a trusted friend. In fact, many ancient August Moon folktales are about a moon maiden. On the 15th night of the 8th lunar moon, little children on earth can see a lady on the moon. On this magical occasion, children who make wishes to the Lady on the Moon will find their dreams come true. Reference: Bet Key Wong ,

The Moon Lady

There are many Moon festival stories that explain how the Lady came to live in the Moon. On the 15th of August, Chinese parents tell their children stories about her. The dance Kita performs is based on the one below:

Hou-Yi shoots the Sun

Long, long ago, there were ten different Suns. They came out one by one, so that on each day, only one sun was in the sky. But the suns began to feel lonely when they were out in the sky, because they were always on their own with no playmates. So one night they hatched a plan. Each day for the next ten days, after the sun came out, it didn't go home to bed, but stayed burning brightly in the sky. After ten days, all the suns were shining all day and night long. The Chinese people were feeling very worried about this, as they were very very hot and they couldn’t sleep without the cool darkness of night. Plants began to die from the heat and the water began to dry up.

The people called upon the famous archer, Hou- Yi, to save them by shooting the suns down from the sky. Hou Yi did as requested and shot nine of the suns down so that order was restored to the land again. The people were so grateful to him for saving them that they made him their King. Unfortunately, Hou-Yi did not use his kingly power wisely and began to treat his people very badly. He enjoyed being King so much that he began to look for the secret to eternal life, so that he could stay in power for ever. He got a chemist to make a special tablet, the Pill of Immortality, so that he would never die. Hou-Yi's wife Chang Er was very worried about this tablet, as Hou-Yi was such a cruel and despotic King. She thought that if Hou-Yi stayed King forever, he would eventually starve or kill all of his people. When the chemist produced the Pill for Hou-Yi, Change Er quickly took it and swallowed it before Hou-Yi had the chance to take it. Her body became so light that she floated up to the Moon, where she lives forever as the Lady in the Moon Palace. Chinese people look up Chang Er, the Moon Lady, and feel grateful because she saved their lives. Living with Chang-Er in the Moon Palace are many beautiful Fairies. They are dressed in silk robes, so that when they move, the silk floats and looks like clouds. In Kita's dance, the silk ribbons symbolise the silk robes worn by the Fairies in the Moon.

Here is another story about The Moon Lady. It has the same characters, but the events are quite different.

A long, long time ago, there was a beautiful lady named Chang Er who was married to the heavenly archer Hou Yi. They did a lot of very brave and kind things together to help the people on earth, the most famous being saving the earth from the ten suns that scorched the earth. One time, after they built a big new jade palace for the Queen Mother of the West (XiWangMu), she rewarded them by giving them a special magic Pill of Immortality, saying, 'If you eat this magic pill, you will live forever. But you can’t eat it right away. It has very strong magic, so you have to wait one year and eat special foods and sit quietly (fast and meditate) to get your body ready for the magic.'

Hou Yi took the pill home and told Chang Er about it. Then he put it in a secret hiding place until they were ready to eat it. But after three or four days, Chang Er wanted to take a closer look at the magic pill. So she took the box out from its hiding place and opened it up and took out the pill. It was so beautiful, like a pearl, glowing white from the inside with a rainbow of colour shimmering just under the surface, and it smelled like peaches.

Hou Yi came in and found her holding the pill and asked, 'What are you doing?'. Chang Er hid the pill behind her back and said, 'Nothing'. He said, 'Are you eating the Pill of Immortality? We’re not supposed to eat it until after one year. It’s too strong.' She said, 'No, I’m not eating it.' He said, 'Let me see your hands.' She took one hand out from behind her back. He said, 'Let me see your other hand.' She switched the pill and showed him the other hand. He said, 'Let me see both hands.'

She didn’t know where else to hide the pill, so she hid it in her mouth and showed him both hands and mumbled, 'See, nothing.' She was so afraid of getting in trouble that she began to run away from him. He chased her around the room-on top of the tables and under the chairs and around and around-until, 'gulp,' she accidentally swallowed the magic pill.

Her body suddenly felt weightless, and it began to glow with a bright light and she started to rise up into the air. He said, 'Where are you going? Come back down!' She said, 'I’m sorry, it was an accident! I didn’t mean to swallow it. I was just looking at it!'

The window was open and she floated out the window. He couldn’t reach her, but he saw her pet, Jade Rabbit, sitting on the porch looking up at her, and he tossed the rabbit up to her so that she wouldn’t be all alone wherever she was going. She caught Jade Rabbit in her arms and shouted, 'Bye bye!' And she floated up up up to the moon, where she lives until this day in the Cold Palace of the Moon.

People say that when the moon is full, you can see them there. The Jade Rabbit is busy pounding a new elixir of immortality. And on the night of the Moon Festival, you can look up at her on the moon and ask Chang Er for a secret wish…

Discussion topics:

Compare and contrast:


Make your own Chinese ribbon

For centuries, the Chinese have taken great pride in producing beautiful silk ribbons. Silk is one of the most valued commodities ever produced and still has a high standing in the culture of China. Traditionally, red is the symbol of happiness in China, so you might like to make your ribbon red

Short ribbon sticks: easy to make and suitable for very small children. Materials: chopstick, drawing pin, silk ribbon (50 cm length for each child).
Method: Gather end of ribbon with thread and pin gather to end of chopstick.

Longer ribbon sticks: for middle primary aged children and above. Materials: bamboo stake for each child (available from gardening suppliers), ribbon - either ready-made satin ribbon as wide as you can buy or silk fabric cut into 30 cm widths and hemmed at the sides and ends (length: child's height plus one arms length approx 1.5 metres per child), fishing swivel for each child (available from fishing or hardware stores), fishing wire

Method: Attach one end of the swivel to the stick by threading fishing wire through the loop of the swivel and taping both ends of the wire to the stick. Gather one end of the ribbon with fishing wire and tie around the other end of fishing swivel.


Create your own dance of the Fairies in the Moon palace

Think about the movements you saw in the Fairies dance, including:

Can you describe (in words) or demonstrate (in movement) some of the movements the dancers did?

Create your own ribbon dance about the Fairies in The Moon Palace. You could use movements that Kita dancers made, or your own ideas. You might work on your own (solo), with one partner (duet), or as a group. Make sure your dance has a clear beginning and ending.

Perform your dance for the rest of the class.

Suggested Musical Accompaniment:


Also of Interest:

Jisinbalkgi Dance - Welcoming the Full Moon (Korea)

Chusok Festival Chusok, also known as Korean Thanksgiving, is also held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Chusok means a great day in the middle of August and is celebrated during the harvest season. Korean families take this time to thank their ancestors for providing them with rice and fruits. The celebration goes for three days, so many Korean families take three days off from work to get together with family and friends. The celebration starts with a family get-together at which rice cakes called 'Songphyun' are served. These special ice cakes are made of rice, beans, sesame seeds, and chestnuts. Then the family pays respect to ancestors by visiting their tombs and offering them rice and fruits.

In the evening, children wear their favourite hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and the dance Kang Gang Su Wollae dance in a large circle under the bright moon. They play games, sing songs, celebrate the family and give thanks for their blessings. In Korean culture, when you wish for something, you pray to the Moon. This is a little like we in Australia might wish upon a star. As well as praying to the Moon, Korean people traditionally prayed to the earth. Korean people believe that the pattern you can see in the full moon is a pair of rabbits working together to make rice cakes. 'Jisinbalkgi' This dance is performed during Chusok celebrations. It means praying to the God of the Earth. The dancers stamp on the ground to bring good luck and protect themselves from evil spirits and then rub their hands together to send out the prayers. This dance is always improvised, that is, the dancers make it up as they go along, so every time it is danced it looks different.




In Jisinbalkgi, the dancers wore hanbok, Korean traditional costumes for women. These are exactly like the outfits worn by ladies of the nobility, rich and important people, centuries ago. The jacket with wide sleeves is called a jeogori. This is tied with two long ribbons to form an otgoreum knot, the full-length skirt is called chima and the underskirt, sok-chima.

Soo-Yeun's hairstyle indicates that her status as a married woman. Traditionally, young men and women in Korea wore their hair in a long single plait. When they got married, women put their hair up into a bun like this, fixed with a gold, jade or ivory pin like this one. Men pulled their plait into a knot on the top of their heads.

Korean people always take off their shoes inside the house and wear special socks, 'ko' or 'nose'socks, so-called because the upturned tip is like the tip of a nose.

Discussion topics:



From seeing this dance you have learned that Korean people wish to the moon. In Australia, we don't often wish to the moon. What do we wish upon? Can you think of any poems, song or stories that are about wishing?

Think about a wish you have and turn it into a poem. It might be a wish to the moon or the stars.

Discussion: creatures in the moon.

Visual Art:

Kita performers told you about the Korean story of the rabbbits who live in the moon making ricecakes for Chusok. You also heard about the Chinese story of the Moon Lady. What do we in Australia think that the patterns in the moon represent?

Draw a picture of the Man in the Moon. Then write your own story about him. How did he get there? What does he do there?


Kecak - The White Monkey Dance (Indonesia)

Monkey MaskIn Bali, dancing is still a regular part of Balinese life. Most Balinese dancing is closely related to the classical dancing of other Southeast Asian cultures. There are many similarities between the classical khon dances of Thailand and the Balinese Barong and Legong dances. These are all similar to western ballet, in that they tell a story.

The Kecak dance performance is the most unique form of Balinese dance. It is usually performed at night at the time of the full moon surrounding a bonfire in the Bona Village and Batubulan areas near Gianyar in East Bali. When performed inside a temple, the kecak dance also has ritual purposes. It stimulates the invisible superpower to enter one of the group members until he is in a state of trance, and then casts away the evil spirits and diseases. Special offerings must be made before it is performed in order to clean the stage spiritually from the dirt (ie. of evil spirits).

The dance is also known as The Monkey Dance, for the movements look like monkey's movements. Rather than the Gamelan orchestra that is typical of other Balinese dances, as well as most Southeast Asian classical dancing, in the Kecak the only music is provided by a large chorus of bare-chested men and boys sitting in a circle just in front of the audience. They beat their palms on their chests, thighs and other parts of their bodies, clap their hands and shout and chant 'chak-a-chack-chack' to accompany the dance. They move their bodies with the dance as well; stretching hands out and pulling them in, rested on the shoulder of the next person and twisting their waists left and right.

The dance tells part of the Hindu epic story of the Ramayana. Sita, the wife of Rama, is kidnapped by Rama's arch-enemy, the king of Lanka, and taken to his palace of Alengka. Rama asks the red monkey king Sugriwa to help in his search for Sita. Together they choose Hanoman, a white monkey with magical powers, to find Sita at the palace. Hanoman is son to the God of Winds. He has a great mind and is extraordinarily active, daring and strong and can even fly.

Rama gives Hanoman his ring so that he can prove his identity to Sita when he finds her. Hanoman finds Sita, gives her the ring, and attempts to destroy the palace where Sita is held, but is caught. Hanoman is bound and placed in a ring of straw that is set on fire. He dances back and forward over the burning straw, eventually kicking the sparks up into the air as he chases off his persecutors. The bad guys are defeated. Sita is reunited with Rama and they lived happily ever after.



Discussion topics:


Research: The Monkey dance is the story of the dramatic rescue of a lady by a hero Hanoman, the White Monkey. Do you know of any other stories where good triumphs over evil, and the heroine is rescued by a stranger (Red Riding Hood, Snow White)? Can you find any stories from other cultures that have a similar theme?

Story-writing: Write your own story about a dramatic rescue of someone from evil.

Your hero might be your favourite animal- or even Hanoman the White Monkey. Describe his/her magical powers and how they are used in the rescue. Draw a picture of the climax of the story.

Create your own rescue dance:

Tell your rescue story through movement, like you saw in our Monkey Dance. If you need some ideas about how to create a dance, have a look at our notes for Tari Merak.

Create your own accompaniment:

Use body percussion to create music to accompany your rescue dance. Different sounds might accompany different sections of your dance. For example, loud percussion instruments like drums, gongs and a gamelan (a marimba or glockenspiel would be a reasonable substitute) would make strong scary sounds. Quieter instruments like triangles might accompany sections that are slow and quiet.

Research: Animal dances

You have seen two dances today that feature animals: the Merak (peacock) and the Monkey dance, both from Indonesia. 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 dances in other cultures.


Xio Fung Neo - The Little Cowherd Dance (China)

'The Little Cowherd' is a traditional Chinese love story set in the countryside. The dance is accompanied by traditional Chinese opera music and singing. A beautiful young girl is out riding her horse across a field, when she sees a handsome cowherd looking after his cows. She decides to approach him, to ask whether he knows a good place for her to buy some wine. He responds with directions to the nearby village, Sing Hwa Chung. The two then strike up a conversation, and begin to tease each other. He communicates with her by singing popular country songs, and she answers back in song. They play a game of challenge, with each trying to show up the other with fast footwork and snazzy moves. The dance finishes as the girl taunts the Cowherd and takes herself off to the village without him.

Costume: In this dance, Sabrina wears a costume she has had since she was 12 years old. When we decided to include Little Cowherd in our program, Sabrina rang her Mum in Taiwan and asked her to send it to Australia. The stick that she dances with symbolises both her horse and the whip she uses on her horse. The Cowherd's stick also symbolises his flute and the cow that he rides.

Discussion topics:


When you have created your Australian version of The Little Cowherd, you could present or perform your work to the class.

Spirit of Kita

Our final item includes all of our performers. It begins with a section of traditional dance from each of our cultures and ends on a contemporary note with a modern choreography of our shared experience in Australia. The first section of the dance begins with Seung Hi's 'Sunrise Dance' from Korea, followed by Sabrina's Kung-Fu Dance' in which she shows two different type of soft tools, a duster and a sword, that are used as weapons in Chinese Kung-Fu. The section finishes with a traditional Javanese dance performed by Nixson. The character he dances is Gatot-Kaca, who is a kind of Spiderman who helps people. The wings on Gatot-Kaca's s costume show us that he can fly. He is also a prince and the son of a giant.

The second part of 'Spirit of Kita' includes all of the dancers together performing contemporary dance that they have learned since coming to Australia. Near the end, they use their bodies to draw in the air, the letters of the word 'Kita', our company's name and an Indonesian word that means 'we'. They perform this in canon, that is, one after the other. Did you see it?


Dance-making: in Spirit of Kita, the dancers drew the word Kita in their air with their bodies. You could use your name as a basis for creating a dance. Using any part of your body that you like, try to write the letters of your name in the air. Now find a way to join those letters together to create your own movement signature.

Accompaniment: You can perform this name dance without music accompaniment, or you might like to choose a piece of music to go with it. Experiment with different music to see how the mood of music affects your movements.

Partner/small group work: Now you might like to pair up with a friend or small group and create another signature dance using the letters of a word you choose. You might choose a word that is something both of you like, such as 'music', 'beach' or 'footy', or it might be something about your life, such as 'school' or 'winter'.

Create a movement sequence: using the letters from that word, create a movement sequence (several movement joined together).

Now try to express the word in a different way: think about that word, perhaps make a list of all the things you can think of. For eg. if you were making a dance about 'beach', you might write waves, sand, hot, rockpools, fish… Now see how you might express some of those ideas with movement . You might make large wavy movements for waves, small hopping ones for hot sand or quick darting ones for fish. Then find a way to join the ideas together so that the different movements flow together easily. Choose some suitable music and voila, you have your very own original choreography.

Presenting: Perform your dance for your class. You might like to see if your classmates can guess what the dance was about after they have seen it, or you might like to tell them before you start so they can look out for some of the movements that they are going to see.

Class discussion: when your dance is over, your classmates can tell you the things they saw in your dance, especially the aspects they enjoyed. They might have seen things that you intended they see, or they might see things you weren't expecting.

Writing activity: when you have finished you could write down your thoughts about the process of creating your dance


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






Tel: 0468 560 959 e-mail: