Chinese traditional dance – theories
五．手勢：蘭花指 －如右圖 ，爲指物時用；蝶姿勢 －爲女性的基本手姿；握拳 －爲表演武舞的基本手勢之一
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China is one of the oldest countries in the world, and Chinese dance has a history of over 5,000 years. Ancient Chinese dance was divided into two types, civilian and military. In civilian dance, dancers held feather banners in their hands, symbolizing the distribution of the fruits of the day’s hunting or fishing. In the large group military dance, the dancers carried weapons in their hands, and moved forward and backward in coordinated group motion. This later evolved into the movements used in military exercises.
Dance, music and poetry flourished during the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.), because of the political stability and the economic prosperity. During the early Tang period, Buddhism was introduced to China, and because trade and social relationship with other countries rapidly expanded, dances were influenced by folk dances of other countries such as India, Rome, Persia (Iran), Korea, Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, and other Central Asian countries. In addition, it also combined with other forms of fine arts such as painting, scenery, and colorful costumes as well as poetry, classical music and drama. The combination of these colorful traditions brought the performing arts to a new peak, and the Tang dynasty has been regarded as the golden age for dance in ancient China.
Chinese Dance is classified into two categories: Traditional dance and Folk Dance. Traditional Chinese Dance includes the Lion Dance, Ribbon Dance, Fan Dance and Sword Dance…etc.. Folk dances reflect the lifestyles and customs of a people. There are about 56 distinct indigenous ethnic groups within China, each minority people or aboriginal group of China has its own folk dance forms.
Chinese dancers study Peking Opera movements, martial arts, acrobatics and theatrical movements as well as numerous forms of folk dance. Dance technique also includes work with various props, such as handkerchiefs, ribbons, weapons and fans…etc..
Characteristic of Chinese dance:
Movements emphasize on upper body
Because of the conservative lifestyle, the body should not be shown, Chinese people wear long cloth or pants to cover up their bodies. Dance movements are restricted by the clothes. Unlike Western ballet,Chinese dance emphasizes on the upper body rather than the lower body; such as: hand, eye, head, gestures, and hand and eye coordination.
Using the gravity
Unlike Western ballet against the gravity, Chinese dance uses gravity to its dance. Chinese dancers run and walk with their bending knees.
Contrary to Western ballet, most of Chinese dance movements are reserving and not stretch out. Like its culture, people who talk straight forward are considered as impolite or foolish.
Using various circular patterns in dance movements
Circle symbolizes reunion, harmony and luck, Chinese dance movement use various circular shapes, like side way of 8, round waves, semicircular, spirals and oval etc..
As in Chinese culture, body should not be shown, the beauty of limbs and trunk are not emphasized; in addition to the conservative style of movements, use props can add the interest of dance presentation. The traditional props, such as different types and materials of fans, handkerchiefs, ribbons, swords, lions, dragons, umbrellas, drums, cymbals, spears, bamboo sticks, bells, tambourines, music instruments…..etc.
Delicate steps and gestures
Different style of steps and hand and finger gestures have their names and meanings.
Enhance movement accent in relation to the music
There are short special poses to emphasize the music periods to add interest dance presentation.
Our students’ Chinese dance performances:
Performances from Chinese Huaxia School Dance Class:
My students perform a Chinese Ribbon Dance:
The moment they got the ribbon, I saw the big smiles on their faces. I cannot describe how happy they were about learning a Chinese ribbon dance.
My adult students perform a Chinese waist drum dance:
My cute students perform a Chinese waist drum dance too; aren’t they cute?