Sunday, 22 September 2013

2013 Beijing Dance Academy Summer School

Thanks to the funding from P.H. Holt Foundation and the support from my family, I went to Beijing Dance Academy for the third time to take Chinese folk dance training this August. 
Beijing Dance Academy

Compared to the pleasant British summer weather, the summer was quite scorching and suffocating in China. I arrived in Beijing on Sunday evening, 29th July from Shanghai.  It was  nearly 2 years and half since I was in Beijing last time. For the same reason and dream, I came to this city and this school again but it was only 3 weeks compared to 4 months previously. 

The course started the following day so I had a very tight schedule on my arrival. But having already confirmed the accommodation through a friend beforehands and being familiar with the school, I had no trouble to settle down instantly. I was very pleased that I could live a life like that again, just being a student and focusing on dance, which was such luxury for me. I stayed in a domitory where I shared with other five lovely young Chinese girls, who were a dancer teacher, two dance students, a music teacher and a fashion design student. It was fun living in a small room with other people, which reminded me of my university life in China  and my trainings in Beijing Dance Academy last two times. But when there were five rooms in the house and 20 or so of us had to share one bathroom, the competition of getting to use  the toilet or having a shower was obviously intensive and was a test of your speed and patience, which however added something interesting and memorable to my stay. 

The course I was taking was Chinese folk dance, which consisted of three different types of advanced folk dance in China: Hai Yang Yang Ge--a fan dance from Shangdong Province, Uyghur ethnic minority group dance from Xinjiang region in Northwest China, Yao ethnic minority group dance from Southwest China. So we learnt each of those three dances in a week. The training was quite intensive; we had classes 6 days a week (Monday to Saturday with Saturday for an assessment or final performance/sharing day) and 6 hours a day.  

  • Week 1: Hai Yang Yang Ge
It was a very new style for me. I was a bit nervous at the beginning as I had no idea what the dance was like and what I was supposed to learn. So the first two days I was like a totally blank sheet and robotically copying the teacher's moves with no a clear concept about this style of dance. Talking about the teacher, she was an interesting figure; a small, fiesty and articulate with good sense of humour mid-30 lady; she was an experienced and dedicated teacher and could deliver her message clearly and make lessons very interesting. 

We were learning the dance by different moves and routines each day. After repetative practice and the teacher's coaching, I gradually gained a vague idea about this dance. Furthermore, as the style is related to Jiao Zhou Yang Ge, another fan dance from the same province which I was more familiar with, I could relate to my existing knowledge to this dance. But I had to say that I really enjoyed the dance. It was challenging but beautiful with various dynamics in the movements. 

For this style of dance, some movements and routines are quite upbeat and energetic whilst some are slow and mellow; if I could use a person to describe the movements, the former one would be a cheeky and bubbly girl and the latter would be a demure and elegant lady. I learnt some new ways of dancing with fans. The teacher really pushed us in term of movements and performing; I learnt how to play with dynamics of movements, maximise the movements and enhance the fluidity. To a certain extent, I could apply contemporary dance technique to this dance or vice versa like suspension, continuousness and breathing. Please take a look at the photos and video from my training. Find out more about this dance style please click the following link:


With Miss Yin
  • Week 2: Xinjiang Uyghur Dance
This dance is the most familiar one to me out of the three I learnt in the summer. It is very popular and widely performed ethnic/folk dance in China. Uyghur is one of the largest ethnic minority groups living in China from Northwestern part of the country. I came across and started performing this dance style when I was only 5 years old and also took a couple of lessons while I was studying other Chinese folk dance at Beijing Dance Academy in 2006 but I had not studied the style comprehensively and systematically until this summer even though what I learnt this time was only a very small part of this kind of dance style. 

This ethnic dance has been one of my favourite ones for many years. As a Han Chinese, the main group in China, Uyghur is a very intriguing and mysterious nationality for me as it is very different from us in term of culture, tradition, language, arts, music and dance. Xinjiang is where Silk Road started and located on border with Russia and other former Soviet Union countries, so it has a lot of influence from Europe and Middle East and it is not hard to see the similarity with those countries in culture, dance, music and even people's appearance. A lot of people may mistake Uyghur people from Eastern Europe rather than China as they look quite 'exotic'. Also with Islam being the main religion, we can see rich Islamic elements in their music, dance, costumes, language, architecture and life style. Dance and music are an important part of Uyghur people's life; they dance and play music at festivals, weddings, celebrations , party or after a meal and they were born dancers regardless of age and gender. 

Xinjiang Uyghur dance requires dancers to elongate their lines and stand tall and straight; it beautifully presents elegance and femininity. Uyghur dance has several different styles and each style has different pattern of rhythm. The dance music has very strong drum beats. The most common style is Sanam, whose rhythm is 'Dong Da E Dong Da, Dong Dong Da'. We did 5 Sanam routines and 1 Tse Ke Ti Man routine, which has time signature 6/8 mainly from the southern area of the region. Sanam is generally upbeat, cheerful,  energetic and playful; whilst Tse Ke Ti Man is slower, softer and regal or aristocratic. The signature movement from Uyghur dance is head moving sideways in common with Indian dance and also distinguished wrist movements and foot steps. Also fast turns and knee spins are another common movements for this style of dance. From learning this dance, I improved my lines and now pay more attention on my extension of my arms and legs. 

We had a different teacher for this dance. She was quite a different character from the first teacher. She was tall and more layback but gave good instruction; she liked to make jokes with us so the lessons were always quite enjoyable. 

For more information about Uyghur ethnic group please check

With Miss Wang

Week 3: Yao Dance

I had not seen or done this dance before, the same to most of us in the class, so were were complete beginners. Yao ethnic people mainly live in Southwest China including Guang Xi, Yunnan and Guizhou. It is rather a small ethnic minority group compared to Uyghur, Yi, Mongolian, Tibetan and Korean and its dance has not been exposed widely. 

Yao ethic is a rather defensive and passive nationality. A lot of them live in a deep mountain like tribes and are far away from the city life. Their basic foot position is toes turning in and twisting; untwisting the body are the signature moves, which illustrates Yao people's uncompromising and strong-willed characteristics under poor living condition and invasion and suppression from other nations in the history.     

Before we started the lessons, I was a bit worried but also excited. Well, on the the very first day I found this was a strange and challenging dance, for I struggled to do the moves correctly and was picked on by the teacher several times. The second day I saw a little improvement but not much. The moves from this dance style are quite unusual and I could even use 'weird' to describe them. Like most other students, I became a bit frustrated as I had no idea about this dance and did not know what I did wrong and what I did right. I was counting down the days when the course would finish and wished the time would go faster. But as the week went along, I started understanding it and enjoying myself. I was put right in the centre of the 1st row, which gave me some pressure. We learnt 5 routines all together in the end. Dancing with Yao long drum was great fun and also was my favourite part. 

The teacher for this dance was another different person. She was very conscientious, dedicated and generous with her time and knowledge. Also I found out that she was once teaching for a Confucius Institute in London for half a year so her experience in living in the UK brought us a bit closer. After we finished the course, she said to me that 'I hope you can continue promoting Chinese culture in the UK, which I cannot undertake any more.' I feel very honoured about this 'mission' she gave me and will certainly do my best. 

For more information about Yao ethnic people. Please check


                                                                with Miss Wang

We had a performance every Saturday during those three weeks. Chancellor or Vice Chancellor of the school, staff and other students attended so we had a good number of audience every time. All the performances were videoed. Even though I had performed in various-scaled events for numerous times, I had stage fright every time, as all the dances we were doing were group dance, if I messed up, I would spoil the whole group's effort for the whole week. But I did well I think apart from a small error I did in the second week. :P 

An the end of the final performance of our last dance Yao dance, we were all awarded a certificate for the training at Beijing Dance Academy this summer. When it was nearly the end, I did not want it to finish and wished it would be longer so I could learn more dances. 3 weeks went speedily while I was learning new dance and gaining new knowledge. I made new friends over there and will cherish the time I spent at Beijing Dance Academy in the summer.  

To sum up, the training at Beijing Dance Academy this summer was very informative, useful and beneficial for me as a dancer, educator and creator. I have learnt new dances,  gained deeper knowledge about Chinese folk dance and cultures, enhanced my dance technique, enriched my choreography and producing ideas as well as teaching resource and also broadened my networks in China. I hope I will have a chance to further my training there again in the future. 


Beijing is probably the best place for arts and dance especially the traditional forms. I went to see three dance shows: a dance theatre show 'Sea Silk Road', a contemporary dance show 'The Rite of Spring' and a Classical Chinese dance show 'Confucius'. They were all excellent work but my favourite one was Confucius, which was outstanding and world class and beautifully presented Chinese culture through marvellous choreography, dance, music, costumes and staging. I loved the show so much that I stayed behind for a while until I could go to the backstage to take some photos with the performers. 


The Rite of Spring & Li Sao

Future Plan

Now I am back to the UK, I am planning to impart my knowledge and skills I learnt this summer to the people in this country by giving lessons, delivering workshops, developing new dance pieces, delivering performances and shows of those new dance styles. Check out my upcoming projects later this year on

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