From History Books to the Dance Floor
From History Books to the Dance Floor
Classical Chinese dancers draw from 5,000 years of antiquity and literature

NEW YORK—The sixth annual NTD Television International Classical Chinese Dance Competition has concluded with over four hours of performances by contestants, along with a dynamic techniques presentation by winners of previous years, and an awards ceremony. The events took place at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center over the weekend.

The competition is one of a series of cultural events hosted by NTD with the mission of reviving and promoting traditional arts of the East and West.

Many of this year’s contestants hail from Shen Yun Performing Arts, widely considered to be the standard bearer of classical Chinese dance tradition. Others study dance at Fei Tian Academy of the Arts or Fei Tian College, both considered premier academies for the instruction of classical Chinese dance.

Shen Yun bills itself as 5,000 years of Chinese civilization live on stage, and each year presents hundreds of performances featuring myths, legends, and historical events brought to life in dance and song. Taking a cue from Shen Yun, contest finalists sipped from the fountain of Chinese history and literature when choreographing their dance routines.

Zheng Daoyong, 22, gold winner of the female adult division of the International Classical Chinese Dance Competition, performs
Zheng Daoyong, 22, gold winner of the female adult division of the International Classical Chinese Dance Competition, performs “Ying Tai” at BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York on Oct. 12. (Dai Bing/Epoch Times)

 

Historical Inspirations

Fei Tian Academy of the Arts’ Danny Li, who took home a $10,000 gold prize in the junior male division, performed a piece called “Touring the Sacred Country.” The piece references a poem by Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo about the Battle of Red Cliff, where legendary Gen. Cao Cao was dealt a devastating defeat in the year 208.

Li portrayed himself as the poet, imagining the battle as he penned the poem.

Chinese history is part of the required curriculum at Fei Tian Academy of the Arts, and the Battle of Red Cliff is one of Li’s favorite events in Chinese history.

“China has 5,000 years of history so there are many things to choose from,” Li said. Many of his fellow male dancers chose to take to the stage as military heroes and martial artists.

For instance: Roy Chen in the male junior division gave a sympathetic performance as the prince of Chu, whose troops were surrounded at Gai Xia by the forces of the Han Dynasty. Alvin Song’s piece, “A Hero’s Heart Never Dies,” was inspired by Gen. Cao Cao and centers on an aged warrior who longs to return to the battlefield, but must resign to reality.

“I think I’m more suitable to portray a poet rather than a general,” Li said. “Because I’m a more gentle guy, I guess.”

Peter Huang, 18, gold winner of the male adult division of the International Classical Chinese Dance Competition, performs
Peter Huang, 18, gold winner of the male adult division of the International Classical Chinese Dance Competition, performs “Drinking Alone by the Moonlight” at BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York on Oct. 12. (Dai Bing/Epoch Times)

 

Female adult gold winner Zheng Daoyong of Shen Yun Performing Arts took on the role of Zhu Yingtai, one of the heroines in “Butterfly Lovers,” one of China’s great romantic tragedies. The legend can be traced to the Tang Dynasty. In order to go to school in her day, Zhu Yingtai had to dress as a boy. She fell in love with a classmate who didn’t find out Zhu’s gender until it was too late.

In her piece, Zheng contrasted Zhu by day and Zhu by night.

“When school’s out, she lets her fun-loving, feminine side out,” Zheng said.

Bearing, Form, and Technical Skill

With a history of 5,000 years, Chinese classical dance is one of the most complete and varied dance systems in the world. It is highly expressive, making it a great vehicle to convey all manners of stories and characters. The fundamentals of Chinese classical dance are bearing, form, and technical skill; they are the judging criteria for the NTD competition.

Bearing is the expression of the inner spirit or cultural DNA of the Chinese people, according to the website of Shen Yun Performing Arts. Form refers to the outward expression of coordinated postures and gestures as well as basic barre technique. Technical skill demonstrates a variety of difficult aerials, flips, and turns.

Judge Vina Lee said of this year’s contestants:

“All of the contestants’ levels were exceptional, which makes for a difficult job for our panel of judges. … We know that some of these contestants only had a few years of training, yet they displayed a depth of understanding that is rare. … Chinese dance encompasses an inner meaning, humility, integrity—the strength of men and the grace and goodness of women—so when these dancers train, they are training not only their technique, but also their characters.”

Lian Xu, 14, gold winner of the junior female division performing her piece
Lian Xu, 14, gold winner of the junior female division performing her piece “At the Waterside” at BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York on Oct. 12. (Dai Bing/Epoch Times)

 

Winners of the 2014 NTD Television International Classical Chinese Dance Competition

Adult Division (Male)
Gold: Peter Huang, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Silver: Jim Chen, Shen Yun Performing Arts
Silver: Albert Yang, Fei Tian College
Bronze: Benjamin Li, Fei Tian College
Bronze: Jeff Sun, Fei Tian College
Bronze: Alvin Song, Shen Yun Performing Arts
Bronze: William Li, Fei Tian College
Honorable Mention: Victor Li, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Honorable Mention: Rick Li, Fei Tian College
Honorable Mention: Tim Lin, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Honorable Mention: Jay Huang, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Honorable Mention: Sun Hungwei, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts

Adult Division (Female)
Gold: Lin Hsiao Hung, Shen Yun Performing Arts
Gold: Miranda Zhou-Galati, Shen Yun Performing Arts
Gold: Chen Chialin, Shen Yun Performing Arts
Gold: Zheng Daoyong, Shen Yun Performing Arts
Silver: Wu Kaidi, Shen Yun Performing Arts
Silver: Lin Gueiyu, Taiwan
Silver: Daisy Wang, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Bronze: Alison Chen, Fei Tian College
Bronze: Cheryl Lin, Fei Tian College
Honorable Mention: Huang Linjieh, Fei Tian College
Honorable Mention: Li Kexin, Fei Tian College

Junior Division (Male)
Gold: Kenji Kobeyashi, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Gold: Danny Li, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Silver: Monty Mou, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Silver: Eric Wang, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Bronze: Roy Chen, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Bronze: Jason Pan, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Bronze: Yan Yong Liao, Taiwan
Honorable Mention: Aaron Huynh, Australia

Junior Division (Female)
Gold: Lian Xu, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Gold: Eden Zhu, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Silver: Susan Zhou, New Zealand
Silver: Ellie Rao, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Bronze: Elisabeth Baumann, Germany
Bronze: Tien Chen, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Bronze: Cherrie Zhou, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Bronze: Chen Chu-Chen, Taiwan
Honorable Mention: Shih Yi-Chien, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Honorable Mention: Claudia Yang, USA
Honorable Mention: Su Yufang, Fei Tian Academy of the Arts
Honorable Mention: Angela Xiao, Canada

Gold winners are awarded $10,000, silver winners $3,000, bronze winners $1,000.

With additional reporting by NTD Television

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