After three days of intensive competition, the first International Chinese Classical Dance Competition concluded on July 8, 2007 in New York City. Twenty-two contestants from across the world gave splendid performances and high level displays in the Finals. Expressed through different dance styles, they presented the rich and colorful inner meanings of Chinese dance.
Chinese classical dance is very rich in expressions, much richer than ballet. A Chinese dancer can express many feelings in an instant.
Ballet dancers turn and jump but do not, as in the Chinese classical dance, somersault. Ballet turns are horizontally round, while Chinese classical dance can also turn vertically. Chinese classical dancers perform highly-skilled in-air movements such as the “Yun-Men Great Turn" and a 360-degrees spin.
The many types of turns performed by Chinese dancers, in addition to airborne connecting movements, are reflected a rich and expansive vocabulary. “Shen yun" exquisitely performed means a rich experience of movement with meaning, the gift of Chinese classical dance.
How the body moves can express many degrees of meaning in Chinese dance. This is the key to “shen-yun"’s body postures ("shen fa") that express layers of meaning ("yun lu"). “Shen fa" is the path of movement while “yun lu" is the feeling the movement conveys. When one holds a flower, the feeling expressed is happiness or “shen yu. " But one can use the same movement to express a different feeling or “yun lu. "
Chinese classical dance coordinates movement of the whole body. Movements ("fa") coordinate with steps ("bu"). When the hands move, the eyes and body follow, and the feet also step out. The connecting movement is called “fan-er. " For example, the dancer faces you, and then turns her body away. The dancer bends an arm, curved smoothly. There's no sharp bend. To push away from the body forms a pleasing curve.
One part of the training in Chinese classic dance deals with control. One's joints and ligaments must be opened in order to control movements with high degree of difficulty. The leg being pulled up above one's head is called “chao-tian-deng" and can be done from the front, sideways or from behind. The one from behind is not called “chao-tian-deng", but “zi-jin-guan" where one's leg is pulled up from behind and held by the hand. These movements are typical of Chinese classic dance and they are the basic abilities that dancers should possess.
When these movements are used to express content, one's inner spirit comes into play. For example, to display the beauty of Heaven and Gods, the divine spirit is needed. During rehearsal the dance teacher might suggest, “Carry a touch of the divine spirit. " This is to say that one should sense a kind of pure and other-worldly feeling so as to express one's divine spirit. If the dancer is unable to express it, then his movement is simply an empty movement.
The aim of this dance competition was to create the noblest kind of dance, and to promote Chinese classical dance around the world. It would also mark the revival of Chinese culture after having suffered numerous disasters in the past five decades.
Jason Huang writes about culture and traditions. For more info about NTDTV’s efforts to revive and promote traditional Chinese culture, please visit links of Chinese New Year and Chinese Classical Dance .