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
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: http://arts.cultural-china.com/en/96A8432A16225.html
- Week 2: Xinjiang Uyghur Dance
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 http://www.oqya.5u.com/catalog.html
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.
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 www.fenfen-huang.com.
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