Students Share How Dance Helps Them Reconnect With Their Cultural Heritage

September 24, 2018 Updated: September 24, 2018    

The 8th International Classical Chinese Dance Competition, hosted by New Tang Dynasty (NTD), attracted over 190 dancers from more than ten different countries and regions to participate in this year’s competition. After going through screening in the North American Division and the Asia Pacific Division, approximately 60 dancers stood out and came to Manhattan, New York, for the finals.

Vina Lee, the judge of the competition, said that although these dancers are so young, they are pure and very rare to find.

“For a teenager, or kids at a very young age, they are able to control their emotions, strive in their careers, and have self-discipline, while at the same time not be overly competitive,” said Vina Lee. “The whole team is very pure, very positive. So from this point it’s very outstanding.”

Many dancers who grew up in the west felt that through classical Chinese dance, they learned about Chinese culture and got a deeper understanding of culture itself.

Kun Jing Wu, gold winner of the men’s youth group from Australia, said: “Back then my Chinese was bad and I didn’t understand Chinese culture. But after I stepped into [classical Chinese dance], I felt really different. The content is very deep, and I wanted to know more and more. After seeing Chinese classical dance, It feels very masculine when the boys jump, when the girls jump it’s very beautiful and elegant, and that contrast is very big.”

“I have always been in a very western society, so learning classical Chinese dance helped me understand my heritage and my culture better,” said Meilian Yang a Canadian from Fei Tian Art College.

According to the website of Shen Yun, classical Chinese dance has a long history of thousands of years and it has become a complete system of dance, embodying traditional aesthetic principles with its unique dance movements, rhythms, and inner meanings.

It has its own set of training methods for basic skills, physical expressions, and specific postures. It also involves learning a series of difficult techniques. The importance is in the storytelling, which shows the bearing of the dancers. China’s deep cultural traditions are contained in classical Chinese dance, allowing its movements to be richly expressive, such that the personalities and feelings of characters can be portrayed clearly.

Bo Wei Chen, who won his first gold medal this year in the men’s youth group competition, said: “Before learning to dance, the teacher will say that if you want to learn to dance, you must learn to be a good person first. So moral quality and character are very important for dancing. If there is no morality, the performance is not good. So if you want to dance, you must first cultivate your heart and uplift your morality.”

To be able to play the characters well, dancers must study and learn how they lived.

I read a lot of literature and watched a lot of videos about Yue Fei. I studied his normal life up until the emperor gave him a gold medal. He must have had a certain mood and emotion.

Hou Ren Chen, another gold medal winner from the men’s youth group, said: “My most difficult moment was right before coming on stage, I need to immerse myself in this character.”

The contestants also said that participating in the Chinese Classical Dance Competition has a great significance and feels like a mission.

“It’s to let more people know what Chinese classical dance is. The real Chinese classical dance has not been recognized by many people,” Bo Wei Chen said, “I think the Chinese classical dance [competition] hosted by NTD will let more people understand what the essence of Chinese culture is.”

The purpose of the NTD Dance Competition is to promote the innocence, purity, compassion, and beauty of Chinese classical dance and bring this excellent part of Chinese traditional culture to the world stage.

According to Vina Lee, the competition held by NTD is: “Looking at the whole picture, the highest level of competition in its class.”