NTD Classical Chinese Dance Competition: Understandings of the Art Form

Friday is the second day of the preliminary rounds of NTD’s ninth Classical Chinese dance competition. NTD took look at the performances of the adult female group and some contestants’ understanding of this art form.

Over the past two days, more than 100 contestants showcased their understanding of traditional Chinese culture through the expressive dance form of classical Chinese dance.

“I really like the unique flavor of classical Chinese dance, that is, the reserved, gentle feeling of female dancers,” said Hsiao-Han Chao from Taiwan. She prepared a dance piece named “Light Clouds, Gentle Breeze,” and said it’s about how “after one experiences some ups and downs in life, one steps up to a higher level in a spiritual and mental sense.”

Ellie Rao’s dance piece—a duet called the “Song of Drifting Sleeves”—was inspired by a piece of music of the same name.

“When we first heard this music, we thought it was really poetic. So, we thought maybe we can incorporate some of the Chinese poems into this piece. And we want to present the poems in water sleeve form. Because we thought water sleeve would portray poetry in a very beautiful way.”

This is the first time Rao is doing a duet dance, saying, “It’s very interesting. There is always a creative spark when you guys work together.”

Preparing this dance piece also allowed her to have a deeper understanding of one feature of classical Chinese dance—that the body movements often follow circular paths.

“We always say … when you want to go up, you have to first go down. And when you want to go left, you have to first go right. And within this momentum, it’s kind of similar to Taoist philosophy, where within yin there’s yang and within yang there’s yin,” Rao said. “And while we’re dancing, we’re also trying to think, ‘Okay, this is supposed to be a calm movement. But can we also move within this calm movement? … And when we’re moving fast, can we also slow down while we’re doing that agile move?'”

Many contestants come from Shen Yun, the world’s renowned classical Chinese dance company. There, a special technique is taught called “the body leads the hands and the hips lead the legs.”

Rao says that, using that technique, “if you watch the dance, it will feel like as if they’re more sublime, and they’ll give you a feel of as if they’re from another dimension. Or whatever you do, it will look swifter, faster, and also more agile.”

The judging criteria will focus on bearing, form, and techniques that are characteristic of classical Chinese dance.

NTD will live stream the final round of the competition on Sept. 5, starting at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. There will also be a technical showcase from previous gold winners, followed by the awards ceremony. The livestream can be watched on NTD’s TV network and social media platforms.