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

Tricky Tales

Tricky Tales is a highly interactive 50 minute show for children that includes elements of traditional Asian culture, including dance, music, stories and song, presented in a light hearted and entertaining way. In these traditional trickster tales, ‘The Farmer and the Monkeys in the Forest’ from China, ‘The Rabbit’s Heart’ from Korea and ‘The Adventures of Mouse Deer’ from Indonesia, the tables are turned and a small character gets their own back against someone more powerful. The show includes many opportunities for participation. Students will be invited to join the dancers to play a range of roles including marauding monkeys, creatures from the Undersea Palace or the tiger’s challenges in the forest.  



Performing arts, SOSE, LOTE, Asian studies  
The perfect show for special occasions like Diversity Week, Multicultural celebrations or Harmony Week.



A range of workshop options in dance, drama and visual arts are available to complement students' learning through the performance.

The Farmer and the Monkeys in the Forest  (China)

This story tells how a simple farmer turned the tables on a group of bold monkeys. It is the kind of story Chinese grandparents tell their young ones at bedtime to warn them not to become too big for their boots. Chinese grandparents want children to stay humble, so that they keep on learning at school and at home and keep listening to the wise advice of their elders.

One fine day, a Chinese farmer set off for market carrying his basket full of hats for sale. As the day grew hotter, the Farmer’s basket seemed heavier, so eventually he stopped to rest under a tree. He soon felt sleepy, and before long, dropped off for a nap. While he dozed, a cheeky Monkey climbed down from the nearby forest to investigate. The Monkey poked and prodded at the Farmer to try and wake him up, but the farmer dozed on. Eventually the Monkey found something of more interest  than the Farmer- a bamboo hat. As the Monkey pranced around with the hat pretending to be a Farmer himself, the Farmer was disturbed from his nap. 

The Framer became quite upset at the Monkey’s antics. He tried everything he could to get the hat back from the Monkey, to no avail.  The Farmer became angrier and angrier and began to chase the Monkey. They both tumbled over the basket, and in a moment, the whole collection of hats came tumbling out.  The Monkey was first surprised and then excited to see so many hats. He called to his monkey friends in the forest and they all came jumping down. Soon all the monkeys had taken hats and were teasing the farmer by mirroring his movements. 

The Farmer realised that he would never be able to catch the Monkeys, as there were so many of them and they were so nimble. He needed to use his wits to outsmart them. In one swift movement, the Farmer threw his hat into the basket. The Monkeys, thinking that they were being cheeky, mocked the Farmer and threw their hats into the basket too. The moment all the hats were in the basket, the Farmer quickly closed the lid.  He shouted ‘Ha hah!’ to the astonished Monkeys, put his basket over his shoulder and continued on his way!

Photo: the Monkey meets the Farmer on his way

The monkey meets the farmer on his way

Discussion topics:

These questions could be adapted to be relevant to all three dance pieces. They could stimulate children’s reflection on the story, Kita’s presentation and the artistic elements of the performance including choreography, music and design. This could lead to development of original stories and choreographies

Discuss what you remember of ‘The Farmer and the Monkeys in the Forest’


Story-writing and dance-making:

These ideas could be turned into your own story or your own dance about your characters. First, write all your ideas down to make a story. Then when you are happy with your story, you could turn it into a dance.

Create your own choreography:

Create a dance to show how creatures in Australia might tease a farmer. Some ideas to help you choreograph are in the notes about the Rabbit’s dance.

Monkey Mask making:

Monkey MaskThe Monkey in this story wore a special mask. Make and decorate your own Monkey mask. 
Equipment: vaseline, medical plaster bandaging (available from pharmacies), elastic, scissors, bowl of water, paint for decoration.

First session:
Prepare child’s face by rubbing vaseline all around the eyes, eyebrows, bridge of the nose and temples to prevent plaster sticking.
Tear plaster bandages into small strips (approx. 8 x 3cms long)
Dip bandage strips into a bowl of water one at a time, then while child holds face really still, apply to the brow, temple and eye socket area of the participant, overlaying like papiermache. Keep bandages away from eyes and hairline.
Just before bandage dries, gently loosen from the face and lift it off.
Before the mask is completely dry, make a small hole in each side for the elastic fastening.

Second session:
Leave masks until fully dry, (at least a couple of days), then trim to even the edges and make the wearer comfortable. Thread elastic through the holes and tie to fit comfortably tightly around the head. A touch of paint to match hair colour can make the elastic less visible.

Decorate your mask:
Decorate with paint to make a traditional Chinese style mask. You can make your mask look the same as ours, or you might like to design your own.  You could do some research on other monkey masks. For example Masks of the world

Research Project:

Asian studies:
There are many Asian stories and dances about Monkeys. This one was from China but there are others from countries such as Indonesia, Korea and Malaysia. Find out all you can about other Monkey stories from Asia. Why do Asian people make stories about Monkeys?  What other animals are featured in stories from Asia?

In Australia, many traditional stories, especially those told by Aboriginal storytellers, are about our indigenous wildlife including kangaroos, wombats, emus and lizards. Aboriginal performers often dance about Australian animals as well. Find out everything you can about stories and dances that feature Australian animals.


The Rabbit’s Heart’ - adapted from the folktale: The Rabbit and the Dragon King (Korea)

The Dragon King, ruler of the beautiful Undersea Palace, was very ill. He had been told that his only hope of a cure was to find and eat the heart of a rabbit. His loyal subject Turtle was the only creature in the kingdom who could travel on land and sea, so Turtle offered to swim to shore and find a rabbit’s heart. He began his journey immediately, taking Magic Sand from the Palace to enable the Rabbit to breathe underwater.

Turtle swam to the surface of the blue sea, then travelled for many days and nights to reach dry land. One sunny morning, he spotted a small island, where he climbed to the top of the highest mountain and eventually spotted a small white rabbit. Turtle made his way to the Rabbit and introduced himself, telling her about his beautiful home in the Undersea Palace. The Rabbit responded that she had always wondered what the bottom of the ocean looked like. She told Turtle how tired she was of life on the land and how she wished she could see and do new things. Turtle offered to show her all the wonders of the Undersea Palace. She quickly agreed, and he sprinkled Magic Sand on her as they set off to sea.

After a long journey, they arrived at the Palace. Dragon King greeted her by saying: “Rabbit, I am the great King of the Sea. This entire kingdom is in danger because I am dying. You are a small and insignificant creature. I am told that I can be cured if I eat the heart of a rabbit. I hope that you will not regret dying for such a noble cause.”

The quick-thinking Rabbit answered, “Your Majesty, my heart is a special gift from the heavens. I know this because I have more desire and determination to live than any creature big or small.  But, unfortunately, many creatures on the earth became aware of this special gift and begged me too give my heart to them to eat. I decided that the only way I could have any peace was to remove my heart and hide it in a secret place. If I had known what you needed, I would have brought my heart and given it to you, because I am convinced that the desire to live, which fills my heart, would certainly cure you.”

The Dragon King, hearing this story and seeing how calm and composed the rabbit was, decided what she said must be true. The Dragon King asked the Rabbit to return to the hiding place for her heart and bring it back to him.

Rabbit mounted Turtle’s shell, and they began their journey again. After many days of swimming across the blue sea, they finally reached the shore of Rabbit’s homeland. Knowing that the Dragon King would flood her island if he didn’t get some kind of cure, she plucked a ripe persimmon from a tree deep in the forest and returned to where Turtle was patiently waiting. Turtle assured her that he would be extra careful with it. He bade her farewell and headed back out to sea.

As soon as the Dragon King swallowed what he believed was the rabbit’s heart he had a miraculous recovery. Thanks to the quick-witted Rabbit and the seaworthy Turtle, he regained his desire to live. In fact, it is said that he would live forever. Rabbit, who had seen the deepest sea - nearly at the cost of her life- never complained about her island home again. She was content to eat roots and sweet flower petals in the warm sun for the rest of her days.

Rabbit & Turtle


In this story, the characters wear a version of ‘Hanbok’, Korean traditional costume. These are similar to the outfits worn by nobility, rich and important people, centuries ago.  Rabbit’s 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. Rabbit’s headpiece is not part of traditional ‘hanbok’, however, but added to give her the look of a rabbit! Turtle also wears a Korean traditional costume- this one for men. You can find out more about Korean costumes here



Choreograph (make up) your own dance about underwater creatures

In ‘The Rabbit’s Heart’, you saw sea-creature dances created by your own schoolmates. You might like to create your own sea-creature dance. Begin by choosing a creature that you think would make an interesting subject. 

Moving words:
Think 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 creature moves.
Body parts:  what part of the creature's body moves; fins, shell, tail, 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 sea-creature 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. Or…you might
Create your own accompaniment: use body and instrumental percussion to create sounds to accompany your sea-creature dance. Think about the sounds that would be suitable to complement your character. 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 if you were a large and scary creature. Quieter instruments like triangles might be more suitable if you were a more timid creature.


San Souci, D.  (2002), The Rabbit and the Dragon King,  Boyds  Mills Press  
Yu, Chai-Shin. 1986, ‘Korean Folk Tales’, Kensington Educational, University of Toronto Press.

The Adventures of Mousedeer (Indonesia)

In ancient Indonesian society, there were many stories in which animals spoke and acted like humans.  These stories gave moral lessons to children and sometimes even to adults. They are similar to fables written by Aesop in Western society, but in Indonesia, the creators of those stories are unknown.

Mouse Deer or ‘Kantjil’ is Indonesia’s most famous animal hero and people have been telling stories about him for hundreds of years.  ‘Kantjil’ is a tiny deer who has tiny tusks instead of horns, beautiful dark eyes and graceful and elegant movements.  Despite his small size, Kantjil survives in forests full of ferocious wild animals because of his cunning.  In this tale, Kantjil tricks a tiger three times.

One day Kantjil was resting quietly when he heard a tiger approaching.  He feared for his life, so he  quickly took up a large leaf and began to fan a pile of dung which happened to lie near. When the tiger came up and asked what he was doing, the mouse-deer replied, "This is food belongs to the King and I am guarding it." The tiger who was very hungry wanted to eat the royal food, but Kantjil refused for a long time, advising the Tiger not to touch it as it would be wrong to betray the King’s trust.  At last, however, Kantjil agreed, as long as the Tiger would wait until Kantjil had gone far away before eating it so that Kantjil did not get the blame.  When Kantjil had reached a safe distance, he called back to the Tiger, "You may begin now".  The Tiger hungrily seized what he thought was a delicious morsel, only to be cruelly deceived. Furious at the trick played upon him by the little Kantjil, he hurried after the fugitive to get his revenge. 

Kantjil meanwhile had found a very venomous snake, which lay coiled up asleep. Sitting by this, he awaited the Tiger's arrival, and when the latter came up raging in pursuit, Kantjil told him that he had only himself to blame, since he had been warned not to eat the food. "But," said Kantjil, "you must keep quiet, for I am guarding a precious belt belonging to the King. You must not come near it, because it is full of magic power." The Tiger was so curious that he demanded to try on the precious belt. Kantjil again agreed, but warned Tiger to be very careful and, as before, told the tiger to first let him get safely away, in order that no guilt might attach to him. When Kantjil had run off, the Tiger seized the supposed magic belt, only to be bitten by the snake, which he did not succeed in killing until after a severe struggle. 

Again the tiger chased Kantjil, and this time found the mousedeer standing beside a great wasp's-nest. As before, the Kantjil warned the tiger not to disturb him, for he was guarding the king's drum which gave out a very wonderful tone when struck.  The Tiger, of course, was wanted to strike the drum.  Kantjil pretending to be reluctant at last agreed, stipulating, as before, that he be allowed to get out of the way. As soon as he had put a safe distance between himself and the tiger, he gave the signal, and the tiger struck the nest, only to be beset the next instant by a swarm of angry wasps. Kantjil was saved again!
Animal Characters


Thinking about animal characters

Write down all the character traits you know about Kantjil from the story. Then do the same for the Tiger. Discuss the character traits of other animals who might appear against Kancil in a tale, eg a stubborn and dim-witted ox, an outsmarted fox, a powerless lion.  Compare these qualities from Indonesian context with traditional European stories such as Aesop's Fables. (Remember that Kancil always outsmarts his rivals no matter what their strength, size or reputation!)
Create your own story

Use the Folktale Relationships Activity Sheet to create your own story about Kancil and his exploits with other animals. This can be presented as a play, storybook or cartoon.

For further ideas and Kancil story masks, refer to Indonesia Kaleidoscope, published by Curriculum Corporation, Carlton, Vic, 1999.


The Adventures of Mouse Deer: Tales of Indonesia and Malaysia (or Indonesian and Malaysian Folktales), told by Aaron Shepard, pictures by Kim Gamble, Skyhook Press, 2005.
Kantchil’s Lime Pit, and Other Stories from Indonesia, by Harold Courlander, Harcourt Brace, New York, 1950. Written for young readers but well suited to older ones too.
Indonesian Legends & Folk Tales, by Adèle de Leeuw, Thomas Nelson & Sons, New York, 1961. Another fine collection aimed at young readers
Indonesian Mouse Deer Fables, by Margaret Muth Alibasah

Mouse-deer and tiger from the book by English childrens author, Dandi Palmer



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 is different every time, but it usually begins with some traditional west Javanese dance presented by Soepri, followed by Seung Hi's 'Sunrise Dance' from Korea and Sabrina’s Weapon Dance in which she performs with two types of Kung Fu weapons, a duster and a sword.  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?



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.

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 example 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.

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.

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.

When you have finished you could write down your thoughts about the process of creating your dance



Cathy Spagnoli Picture Books: Asian Tall Tales and Tricksters
Five great Asian tales, beautifully illustrated in different styles, are available individually or in packs of six from The Wright Group/McGraw-Hill,
Aaron Shepard, the American children’s author’s page has many folktales, fairy tales, tall tales and more. Aaron is a specialist in reader’s theatre, and there are also folktale scripts for reader’s theatre.
A comprehensive site devoted to storytelling. Includes information on retelling folktales, storytelling activities & lesson plans, and exploring cultural roots through storytelling.
Studies of Asia: A Statement for Australian Schools
Chinese educational resources including silk ribbons and traditional music
Balinese cultural information
Folk Art


Asia Education Foundation Ph: 03 8344 4800 Fax: 03 9347 1768
LMERC: Language and Multicultural Education Resource Centre has an extensive collection of picture books, reference books, videos and other educational resources for the study of Asia.150 Palmerston Street CARLTON VIC 3053  (03) 9349 1418   (03) 9349 1295,

Books:   (many of these titles are available for loan from the LMERC)


China Books
Specialist in China and Chinese language materials
234 Swanston St, Melbourne  VIC 3000  Ph:  9663 8822  Fax: 9663 8821

Nusantara Indonesian Bookshop and Studies of Asia Bookshop
Specialist in Indonesian material for Studies of Asia, Asian cultural background material and picture books with Asian perspectives.
72 Maroondah Highway, Croydon  VIC 3136.  Ph:  (03) 9723 1195   Fax: (03) 9723 6650

Korean resources
Hamtech (Hansoi Bookstore) Shop 4, 324 Burwood Road, PO Box 336, Belmore NSW 2192
Ph: 02 9740 3592 Fax: 02 9750 2241


Tel: 0468 560 959 e-mail: