Folk Dancing: Chinese Scarf Dance

Follow along with Jaclyn Brown as she teaches Cai Dai Wu Dao, a chinese folk dance with scarves.

Cai Dai Wu Dao

The original Chinese Ribbon Dance was a simple folk dance performed with red ribbons for good luck. Chinese history books tell of Ribbon Dances being performed for royalty as far back as the Han Dynasty nearly 2000 years ago.  Today, Chinese Ribbon Dances remain very popular and include variations ranging from simple to elaborate.  Athletic variations of Ribbon Dances can also be found in Olympic Gymnastics.  This Chinese Ribbon Dance provides the satisfaction of kinesthetically manipulating the colorful ribbons without requiring young dancers to simultaneously perform intricate footwork.

FormationRandom placement around the room
PositionNo contact to other dancers. Make sure there is enough room to swing the ribbons.
StepsIncidental steps as needed when manipulating a single ribbon.
Music2/4 meter with varying (4,6,8,10) phrase lengths.
Teaching HintsThe students will need to count, and remember, as they maneuver the ribbons. The ribbon movements are not hard, but cues will probably be necessary.

Below is the structure of the dance. Further down from the table is the description for each step described in the table.

6 CountsIntroduction
8 CountsFigure 8 Pattern
6 CountsShooting Star Pattern
4 Counts x2Dragon’s Tail Pattern (2 times)
8 CountsFigure 8 Pattern (repeat from earlier)
10 CountsAround the World Pattern (2 times

Figure 8 Pattern: Have the students envision a figure 8 lying on its side. The students trace the figure 8 pattern in the air while they count to 8. Endeavor to have the students feel the flow of the music creating a graceful pattern in the air.

Shooting Star Pattern: Holding the ribbon stick somewhat vertically make 6 random darting strokes from one place to another with a momentary pause to event out the beats. The students need to count just 6 shooting stars feeling the movement with the music.

Dragon’s Tail Pattern: The ribbon stick moves straight up in front of the student (1) doing several quick zig zag movements as it descends (2,3,4). Make sure the student count to 4 twice.

Around the World Pattern: This is a turning movement that can result in dizziness if the students turn too fast. Starting with the ribbon stick low (knee level) the students turn (just fast enough to keep the ribbon in motion) while the ribbon stick slowly rises up over their heads. The ribbon then descends slowly back to the starting low level. Again, the students need to count to 10 for one passage up and down. This pattern is also done twice in a row. If the students want a little challenge, have them reverse directions the second time.

The dance is done 4 times. Counting in a steady beat with the music is essential. It would be helpful to write the complete count sequence (8, 6, 4, 4, 8, 10, 10) on the board as a quick reminder while they are learning the dance.

https://soundcloud.com/repertorydancetheatre/cai-dai-wu-dao?in=repertorydancetheatre/sets/folk-dancing-music

Feel free to share these videos, embed them for your students, or link to this page. New online educational resources are being developed every day. If you have suggestions for what you’d like to see let us know: rdt@rdtutah.org.

Jaclyn Brown is originally from Roosevelt, Utah. Jaclyn hails from Utah Valley University’s (UVU) BFA Modern Dance program, where she performed with Contemporary Dance Ensemble, the department’s pre-professional modern performing group, and also choreographed and performed for Synergy Dance Company. Outside of RDT, Jaclyn performs with Monica Campbell & Dancers. As a member of these companies, Jaclyn has worked with nationally recognized artists, such as, Susan Hadley, Damon Rago, John Allen, Doris Hudson de Trujillo, Jennifer Huffman, Omar Olivas, and Mike Esperanza. Beyond her local training, Jaclyn also traveled to Spain for a study abroad in dance (2010). She also appeared in Alex Boye’s music video “Merci Bon Dieu.” Jaclyn was also honored to first perform for Repertory Dance Theatre as a guest artist in “Commonplace” (2013). Jaclyn is thrilled to be joining the company for her sixth season and would like to thank her husband, family, and friends for their unwavering support.


RDT appreciates the generous funding provided by the Utah Legislature and the Utah Board of Education that help make our Arts-in-Education Programs possible in Utah’s Public Schools.