This year, China’s Henan TV continuously brings surprises to lovers of traditional culture and hanfu culture.
Spring Festival, Lantern Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Qixi Festival, every important Chinese traditional festival, we will see the wonderful programs presented by Henan TV, the most exciting part of which is dancing. Not only offers a holiday gift to all lovers of Chinese traditional culture, but also traditional arts are known to more people.
Starting from 2018, “Street Dance of China”, “Dance Smash”, “Let’s Shake It” and other programs have been hotly broadcast, which also set off a wave of dance. After 2019, Chinese classical dance, one of the traditional dances in China, suddenly jumped into the public’s view and became popular in social media in the short term accompanied by the popularity of ancient music. This may also be the first time that the public really knows and pays attention to Chinese classical dance.
The historical background of the formation of Chinese classical dance can be traced back to the ancient Chinese court dances or to the primitive, ritual dances of more distant times. During the change of dynasties, the development of ancient court dances was affected by the limitations in the use of scenes and the restriction of subject matter in the historical development and many wars, and was gradually replaced by Chinese opera performances. This also led to the slow loss of ancient dance and its end in opera.
By modern times, the training, theory and repertoire of Chinese classical dance have formed a more systematic system, giving birth to a large number of excellent dance talents and outstanding repertoire. Therefore, Chinese classical dance originates from Chinese traditional culture but is born in a modern context, and it has the common attributes of artistry, tradition and modernity.
Chinese classical dance has been difficult to promote among the general public for a long time because of its high threshold of appreciation, and the audience needs a deep knowledge base of traditional culture. However, the receptiveness and appreciation level of the public has been moving forward. Chinese classical dance, which has been created by top dance talents and cultural elites throughout China, will always collide with the public at the right time.
CIQICHINA and Beijing Dance Academy Professor Hu Yan have collected and compiled five popular Chinese classical dance excerpts to show you the unique charm of Chinese classical dance. Maybe after reading the whole article, you will ignite your interest in it.
1. Ode to Beautiful Ladies
Chongqing Song & Dance Ensemble
Choreographer and director: Han Zhen, Zhou Liya, Li Chao.
Performance: Hao Ruoqi, Guo Yayun, Liao Qin, etc.
Composition: Liu Tong.
Styling: Jia Lei.
Costume Design: Yang Donglin.
“Ode to Beautiful Ladies (丽人行)” is an excerpt from the Chinese classical dance drama “Du Fu“, which tells the story of Du Fu’s life through dance and presents the Tang Dynasty in the context of his poetry.
“Ode to Beautiful Ladies” is also a poem written by Du Fu in the spring of 753 A.D. (12th year of Tianbao) before the An Lushan Rebellion, which satirizes the Yang siblings’ spring trip to Qu River from the posture and costumes of the beauty. As the most famous excerpt in the whole dance drama, it shows the extravagance under the prosperity of the Tang Dynasty and the idleness of the beauty.
In addition to the originality of the entire choreography and the excellent basic skills of the performers, it also benefits from a breakthrough in the entire costume and makeup. Compared to the previous Tang Dynasty stage model, the dance drama “Du Fu” places more emphasis on finding elements in the elegant and dignified traditional Chinese aesthetic. In this excerpt, which shows the group dances of court life, the entire stage is designed in a simple and atmospheric way, like a fairy palace.
The costumes are also very ingenious, and the stylist, Mr. Jia Lei, has taken a breakthrough in choosing a Jing Hong bun from Tang Dynasty literature and murals, together with a simple Buyao and Huadian. In order to reflect the lazy posture of the ladies, the clothes of the palace maids are creatively made of non-woven fabric and dyed in the color of silk paper, which perfectly expresses the grooming attitude of the concubines and palace maids of “dignified posture, quiet and natural”.
In 2019, “Ode to Beautiful Ladies” began to be better known and was nominated for the 11th Chinese Dance “Lotus Award”. Even the film and television drama “Tang Dynasty Tour” also inviting the dancers to dance in the drama.
Many fans of Chinese style and hanfu have taken the initiative to learn this dance, and in June 2019, the dance drama “Du Fu” accepted an international invitation to start a global tour. In early 2020, Chongqing Song and Dance Company launched cultural and creative products related to “Ode to Beautiful Ladies”, driving cultural consumption by means of song and dance.
2. Tang Palace Night Banquet
Zhengzhou Song & Dance Theatre
Choreographer and director: Chen Lin and Yuan Shi.
Styling Design: Tong Yao.
Costume Design: Li Mengyang.
In February 2021, the Henan Spring Festival Gala program “Tang Palace Night Banquet (唐宫夜宴)” made it to the top of the social media charts. Previously, “Tang Palace Night Banquet” was shortlisted for the 12th Chinese Dance “Lotus Award” classical dance award final evaluation.
The program is interspersed with AR, technology virtual background also hides a lot of ideas, as well as a number of classic Chinese ancient paintings appearing. The whole stage is like the Tang Dynasty girls “Museum Wonderful Night”.
“Tang Palace Night Banquet” was inspired by a group of static musical figurines displayed in the showcase of the Henan Provincial Museum. Choreographer and director Chen Lin once introduced in an interview that when she performed abroad, she always saw the splendor of the Tang Sancai in museums, so she also had the idea to create a dance piece around the Tang Sancai. From the makeup, costumes, colors to the props held by each actor, etc., all of them are restored with the historical background.
The Tang Palace Night Banquet is divided into five segments: the first is a “freeze frame” in the museum; the second is a “revitalized” musical figurine walking through the garden and playing, which also shows the interaction between the court ladies. Thirdly, at nightfall, the maidens look at the mirror and put on their make-up, and when the solemn trumpet sounds, all of them march into the hall in formation and give a fine performance at the night banquet. In the last part, the girls returned to their initial freeze-frame look and were reincarnated as “a distant history”.
What impressed people most about the “resurrected” Tang Dynasty musical figurines was not the brilliant stage technology, but the different personalities given to each group of characters by history. They are sometimes dignified, sometimes playful, and they also have the small mind of a young girl.
Even the costumes worn by each dancer were padded with sponges to show the roundness of the Tang figurines, and even the actors’ mouths were stuffed with medical cotton balls. The round, quirky and playful Tang Palace girls immediately overturned the public’s impression of the Tang figurines and the perception of Chinese classical dance as “aesthetically pleasing”.
3. The Paper Fan Scholars
Beijing Dance Academy
Choreographer and director: Hu Yan.
Performance: Wei Shenyang, Jiang Aidong, etc.
Composer: Sun Diandong.
Costume Design: Wu Juan.
“The Paper Fan Scholars (纸扇书生)” is a classical Chinese dance group dance for men with “folding fans” as props, showing a group of scholars who have not yet achieved fame and fortune, but are determined to study and advance.
Mr. Hu Yan choreographed this dance because he was impressed by the fan performance in Sichuan Opera. So he hoped to make up a dance. So from 2007, he began to refine and choreograph it continuously, and it took nearly 10 years to finally become a big success.
The dance work, which has taken ten years, has naturally gained a lot of praise. “The Paper Fan Scholars” won the “Best Creation Award” in the “Academy Award” of Beijing Dance Academy 2017, and in the same year, it was performed again in the 11th Chinese Dance “Lotus Award” competition, winning the nomination for Chinese classical dance works.
At the end of 2018, it debuted for the general public at the Chinese Dance Showcase and went widely spread on the internet with over 970,000 views and over 20 million views on Douyin (the Chinese version of Tiktok)
This dance work is divided into three parts: “Qu (趣, fun),” “Ya, (雅, elegance),” and “Kuang (狂, madness). The “Qu” reflects the leisurely interest of the literati, the “Ya” reflects the leisure and elegance of the literati, and the “Kuang” reflects the wild and unrestrained temperament.
It is a young portrait of the whole group of scholars, not only the different character traits of different literati, but also the different states of mind of the same literati at different stages of life, and the different emotions and demands of literati in different times and different cultural environments.
Because the whole dance took 10 years, the temperament of the dance also changed gradually. From the choreography and movements full of drama at the beginning, it is now full of all the fantasies of modern people about ancient fluttering men.
Choreographer and director: Hu Yan
“Charming (媚)” is a live piece in the dance variety show “Dance Smash“, dancer Zhu Jinhui uses playful dance moves to shape a Jiangnan woman. Playful and spirited, charming and lovely, the style but not dusty. Once the program was aired, the dance was a big hit and some netizens commented: You may not have seen “Dance Smash”, but you may know Zhu Jinhui and “Charming”.
This dance is a direct break with the elegant and dignified image of women in classical Chinese dance. The dance is completed by the dancer holding a Tuan fan in her hand. The fan is gently tilted to cover the face, and the chin is occasionally raised with confidence. With the twisting of the hips and the hooking of the feet, accompanied by the brisk dance steps, one can’t help but imagine how many admirers there must be behind this charming woman in Yangzhou. Both the choreography and the choice of music are energetic. The whole person, the movements are as smooth as water.
5. Cai Wei
China National Opera &Dance Drama Theater
General Director: Kong Dexin.
Choreographer: Liu Chun.
Executive Director: Mao Weiwei.
Director of Visuals: Ren Dongsheng.
Music Director and Composer: Zhang Qu.
Costume Designer: Yang Donglin.
Styling Designer: Jia Lei.
“Cai Wei (采薇)” is an excerpt from the dance drama “Confucius“, which shows the life journey of Confucius as he travels around the countries and has the difficult dream of “benevolence” but cannot achieve it.
In a troubled world, the ruler is faint and the ministers are treacherous, but Confucius’ advice to promote propriety and benevolence is repeatedly rejected. Confucius was forced to leave the court because of the struggles at the court.
“Cai Wei” comes from “Shi Jing – Xiao Ya – Cai Wei”, which refers to the hardships of life in the army, where veterans use the description of the different seasons to trigger their helplessness and sadness about the endless war. In this dance, only four lines of the poem are repeated:
“At first, when we set out,
The willows were fresh and green;
Now, when we shall be returning,
The snow will be falling clouds.”
It may sound difficult to associate with war, but “昔我往矣” is recognized as the best line in the Book of Songs. It makes people lament the change of seasons and the passage of time, when the warriors will return, and whether their families are still there.
In the original excerpt, the styling designer Jia Lei specially designed a change in the girls’ look for this segment. In the initial stage, the girls are coiffed, when the dance to the climax, the coiffure will automatically change into distribution. This change in style means that the girls change from mature to young, from reality to dream.
The dance skirt also fades from cyan to white, cyan is vitality, symbolizing spring, and white is ice and snow, symbolizing winter. The lightness of the young girls contrasts sharply with Confucius’ inability to pursue his ambition and his uprootedness.
As a modern continuation of China’s ancient dance, Chinese classical dance has gradually developed its own style and regulations since the establishment of the system.
It is not an ancient dance trapped by the word “classical”, nor is it a modern contemporary dance pursuing avant-garde, it is a combination of rigidity and flexibility, and must have both classical elements and modern relevance.
We hope that classical dance is not only active on social media, because it deserves to be experienced by the public in the theater, and we also hope that more fashion designers will be willing to participate and add new possibilities to Chinese classical dance.
Article from: C/Q\CHINA 磁器
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