Exhausted from overwork, a sculptor takes a short rest and dreams an incredible scene. The Buddha statues he has been carving come to life and inspire him to greater achievement. "A Dunhuang Dream" dance drama exemplifies how spiritual insight influences what we do in our lives.
Arts give meaning to people's lives. On a wider scale, the arts—notably music and dance—can impact the behavior of an entire society. Confucius observed 2,500 years ago that these art forms reflect social mores: "Nothing is more effective than music in improving existing habits and customs," Confucius said in Yue Ji or Notes on Music .
He also said: "One knows a person's principles by watching their dances."
NTDTV's Chinese New Year Spectacular introduced audiences around the world to stories from ancient Chinese dynasties. "Mulan," "The Loyalty of Yue Fei," and "A Dunhuang Dream" delighted viewers with their stories and moral lessons. It was not uncommon for tears to flow during performances. The dances introduced audiences to the exquisite beauty and rich spiritual content of ancient China, often called the Land of the Divine.
Often, words cannot not express the art of Chinese dance. The dances of the Spectacular gave viewers an insight into the breadth and profoundness of authentic Chinese culture. Each dance introduced viewers to a grand panorama of historic figures, myths, and legends—long-lost spiritual gems of Chinese culture.
At the conclusion of the Spectacular's worldwide tour, NTDTV will host the first International Classical Chinese Dance Competition. The competition aims to promote the art of traditional Chinese dance. Dancers will be judged on how they express purity, kindness, and beauty, and enhance Chinese traditional dances. With a view to promoting world cultural exchange, this seminal competition will introduce the world to a cultural and spiritual treasure.
Five thousand years of Chinese culture supply endless inspiration for Chinese dance. A wide range of characters came to life at the Spectacular—men, women, young, old, the upper classes, and common folk. This rich subject matter gave birth to amazing historic figures—loyal and compassionate Yue Fei, his selfless and dutiful mother, modest and valiant Mulan, the forbearing monk, the pious and hard-working sculptor in Dunhuang, engaging children, heavenly maidens, and grand and sacred Gods and Buddhas.
Each scene of the dance forms a whole with movement and posture in conjunction with music, stage sets, lighting, and backgrounds. With the change and flow of each scene, the language of the dance naturally and smoothly tells its story. While appreciating the beauty of the dances, the viewers could, through the dancers' graceful postures and the unfolding stories, get to know the characters depicted in the dances and understand the meaning of the stories.
Promoting pure, kind, and uplifting dances inevitably play a role in raising people's morals and correcting people's behaviors.
Chinese dance covers very broad and profound subject matter. The dances extend back through 5,000 years of China's history, many dynasties, races, folklore, historic figures, myths and legends. Chinese dance also expresses moral behavior—compassion, loyalty, propriety, wisdom, trustworthiness, and filial piety.
While appreciating the performing arts for their artistic merits, people can also understand the rich connotations of the divinely-imparted Chinese culture.
For the dancers themselves, the purity and righteousness of Chinese dancing encourages the uplifting of mind and body. Chinese dance emphasizes "body gestures" and "gesture connotations," and expresses the fundamental spirit of Chinese divine culture which is to unite spirit and gesture. One's spirit leads the movement, and movements convey the dancer's spirit.
Dancers undergo rigorous physical training. The movements need to be not only accurate and precise, but also subtle and able to convey the spirit. That is, "every action and every movement needs to be accurately defined, and every look must follow preset rules." The movements of each part of the body should lead to the movement of the whole body—once one part moves, the whole body moves. All movements are interrelated. Any movements of hands, eyes, and feet must follow the movement of the whole body.
This requires that dancers not only have good mental cultivation, but also be able to let the spirit lead the movements, to precisely control every part of the body. Performers of Chinese dance not only need to solidly master the basics of Chinese dancing, but also have strong willpower as the foundation. While perfecting their physical bodies and dancing skills, the dancers also need to perfect their moral character and willpower.
Confucius noted, "Music is a sublimation of morality." With its close connection to music, dance can also affect a person's moral code. Dancers themselves must embody and cultivate a higher morality and behavior.
In "A Dunhuang Dream," a humble sculptor believes and respects Gods and Buddhas, and is rewarded with inspiration, superb skills and creativity. The dance reflects the dancer's spiritual realm. Through this art, the dancer's pure and bright heart gives their audience what will certainly be righteous and beautiful.
Chinese dance—with its unique qualities, purity, righteousness, and elegance—will place China's divine culture on the world's center stage, introduce new artistic trends, and lay the foundation for a new culture of purity, compassion, and beauty.