A dance competition refreshes and deepens China’s ancient culture, inspires performing artists to new heights of excellence, and widens the worldwide audience for a beautiful art form. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would, of course, welcome such a competition, right? Think again.
In an effort to accommodate mainland Chinese contestants, preliminary rounds for the New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television Fifth International Classical Chinese Dance Competition will be held in Hong Kong for the first time in mid-August.
In previous years this NTD-sponsored event has been held in New York. This venue shift both benefits mainland Chinese artists and further promotes classical Chinese culture around the world.
The move has also, unfortunately, provoked a backlash from the Chinese regime. The CCP’s notorious Political and Legislative Affairs Committee has issued a nationwide directive that bans participation in the competition by any mainland dancer.
The unwarranted and high-handed move, while shocking, is hardly surprising: since the competition’s inception in 2007 the CCP has continually tried to sabotage it.
The International Classical Chinese Dance Competition is the only global competition that showcases the professional creation, demonstration, and cross-fertilization of classical Chinese dance.
Its mission is to promote cultural exchange, making classical Chinese dance known throughout the world, promoting authentic traditional dance that is pure goodness and pure beauty. The competition also provides a platform for fostering the talent of future generations.
Since its launch, the competition has attracted contestants from more than a dozen countries. The competition offers US$60,000 in prize money and great prestige.
A whirlwind of interest in classical Chinese dance is sweeping across the world.
The competition has been globally aired by NTD and has received noteworthy reporting by media around the world. The competition also produces a DVD that is available to the general public.
The competition has built a large and enthusiastic international following, especially among Chinese outside China, who see NTD’s competition series as a proud demonstration of Chinese culture on the world stage.
Since all Chinese greatly value the nation’s ethnic cultural heritage and hope for a wider acceptance of the Chinese tradition, why would the CCP seek to undermine an effort to promote classical Chinese dance as a world-class performing art?
The essence of true Chinese culture is belief in Buddhas, Taos, and gods. The inner meanings of this divinely inspired heritage have been passed on through the generations for 5,000 years. Returning to one’s true self, maintaining harmony between nature and man, and believing that goodness is rewarded and evil punished are all examples of the principles central to this heritage.
The atheist dogma and violent political campaigns of the CCP stand in vivid contrast to traditional Chinese culture. The CCP’s culture wreaks havoc on the beliefs and principles deeply ingrained in the Chinese mind.
Worse yet, the CCP has in recent years co-opted superficial forms or techniques from the past—the masks of the Peking opera, the terracotta warriors, Chinese acrobatics, and so on—and promoted them among the Chinese people as though these superficial things are the foundations of Chinese culture.
The CCP has also invested considerable amounts of capital spreading this pseudo culture overseas and has donned the mantle of defender of Chinese culture. By doing so, the Party believes it is prolonging its grip on power.
These efforts have misled few non-Chinese, but have brainwashed a sizable number of the Chinese people, instilling in them wrong notions about their true cultural heritage.
The classical Chinese dance competition is one of nine world-class competitions sponsored by NTD. With such competitions as Han couture design, Chinese culinary art, and traditional martial arts, NTD seeks to rejuvenate the authentic Chinese cultural heritage and recover its lost meanings.
Some commentators outside China have pointed out that the competitions are forcing the CCP to lose its monopoly on the interpretation of Chinese culture.
This observation makes easier to understand the CCP’s attempts to block people from participating in the competitions. NTD’s competition series has undermined the ideological and cultural base that the CCP has relied on to maintain its control over the Chinese people.
But no matter what the CCP tries to do, in the end it might as well try to tell the ocean’s tides not to rise or the seasons not to change. A whirlwind of interest in classical Chinese dance is sweeping across the world.
U.S.-based Shen Yun Performing Arts, created by Chinese living outside China, has been traveling the world showcasing classical Chinese dance in hundreds of performances each year, winning praise at the most esteemed venues. Classical Chinese dance goes beyond ethnic and cultural boundaries: people the world over are giving it rave reviews.
The ever-widening influence of Shen Yun is providing rare and valuable opportunities for classical Chinese dancers in terms of performance, education, and choreography. NTD’s dance competition is one of these important opportunities.
We call upon potential contestants from the mainland to resist intimidation by the CCP.
In each of the last several years the competition has given the most decorated contestants substantial boosts to their careers. They have typically signed contracts with world-class performing arts companies, such as Shen Yun.
The CCP’s acting to prevent mainland Chinese from participating in this global competition is unconscionable—especially when doing so deprives China’s citizens the right to advance their careers and expand their professional opportunities.
A dancer’s professional career is short-lived, even though the passion for the performing arts may be long-lasting. This fact of life only makes more tragic how the CCP continues to use the arts for its political purposes and in the process degrades them.
We therefore call upon potential contestants from the mainland to resist intimidation by the CCP, whose actions are shameful and cowardly.
Artists should never let politics be a deciding factor. The art of classical Chinese dance is emerging as a force in the global artistic world. The day will soon arrive when classical Chinese dance joins ballet, opera, and classical music as a mainstream performing art around the world.
Indeed, participating will open up a new frontier for contestants and will brighten their artistic endeavors.
Meanwhile, we are calling on the international community to monitor and expose the interference from the CCP. We at NTD pledge to continue to work to bring the blessings and beauty of Chinese dance to the whole world.
Lijuan Ma is senior vice president of NTD and director of NTD’s Competition Series.
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