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ART & LEISURE: Time to Dance
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Time to Dance
By Nadia N.

BT 201708 ART 02舞蹈从古至今都是人类生活中必不可少的一种活动,古文《诗â€Â¢大序》中有曰:"诗者,志之所之也。在心为志,发言为诗,情动于中而形于言。言之不足,故嗟叹之。嗟叹之不足,故咏歌之。咏歌之不足,不知手之舞之足之蹈之也。"由此可见,语言和歌声不能表达的内容,最终通过舞蹈可以实现,舞蹈是人类传情达意甚至表现生活内容的重要方式。我国有着悠久的舞蹈文化,本世纪70年代,在中原地区河南舞阳贾湖新石器文化遗址,发现了8000年前的七孔骨笛十余支,从骨笛的出现,我们可以推定当时的舞蹈必定进入了比较高的层次,因为我国古代歌、舞、乐是密不可分的。在原始群体的劳动中,音乐主要是节奏,舞蹈是有节奏的形体动作,乐器则是劳动工具的改变、变形。宁西部山区牛河梁出土了5000年前红山文化的"女神庙"、祭坛和积石冢群址,其中女神头像完整地保存着,是目前所见最早的女舞蹈家的塑像。而女神主管祭祀,是沟通人神的桥梁,其手段则是舞蹈。


BT 201708 ART 01China is a country with vast and beautiful culture and dancing is what China also features plenty of variety. Even when talking about Chinese traditional dancing, majority of people will not remember any particular dance because Chinese dance has many variations and a long history.

Chinese dance in fact started quite a long time ago - about 6000 years ago. This number was gotten by archeologists after discovering pottery shards displaying the ritual dancing. As people living on the territory of modern China survived with hunting, ritual dances included their hunting weapons - spears, shields, etc.

China has 56 ethnic minorities and each of them is characterized by a number of some special traits like clothing, singing or dancing. Of course many dances of ethnic minorities in China (just like many different cultures outside China) share common themes like love, hate, rivalry, jealousy, festivity as well as matrimonial bliss and the communal bond. The communal bond plays a crucial role in many ethnic dances, and of course, one of the main reasons for the ritual performance of these ethnic dances during festivals is to reinforce social cohesion among the group (the term of "connection" or "guangxi" is still extremely important in China). Folk dance is one of the most cherished forms of art among Chinese people, together with singing. In a way, folk dance can be interpreted as the simplest and most immediately available form of informal theatre and perfectly reflects the mentality and the culture.

BT 201708 ART 03Among thousands and thousands of various traditional dancing styles in China, there are several most famous and popular ones, like Lion Dance, Dragon Dance and Court Dance. These three styles have become a certain name card of Chinese dancing.

Lion Dance is by far the most popular folk dance performance in China. Ancient Chinese have always seen a lion as a guardian figure. That is why lion statues often appear at the entrances of banks, hotels and other establishments. The lion also has symbolic significance in Buddhism - another reason for the typical Chinese to admire this proud beast. Lion Dance is generally performed with only 2 dancers wearing one lion costume. In northern China, Lion Dance is usually performed by acrobatic dancers to express all the ferocity and grace of the lion. Colors of the Lion costume are usually royal - yellow, red or orange. In Southern China, lion is a symbol of a protector from evil spirits. For the purpose of fighting evil beings, when Lion Dance is performed in Southern China, the Lion has a single horn and a mirror on his forehead to slay the evil and reflect the light as he goes.

BT 201708 ART 05Dragon Dance is another favorite of Chinese people. Dragons, as is well known, are symbols of dignity, power and wisdom in Chinese culture and they have nothing to do with their Western equivalents. Some historians connect the symbol of the dragon with the Emperor himself or at least with the impression that the latter wanted to give. Traditionally the mock dragon is used for Dragon Dance and depending on the length of the dragon up to 60 dancers can be used to animate it. The performance requires dancers to be extremely skillful - dancers support the mock dragon with poles and raise the lower half and turn the dragon as needed to suggest the swooping motion. Dragon dance is most frequently performed during Chinese New Year or Spring Festival and can be seen not only in China but on all kinds of China towns all over the globe.

BT 201708 ART 06
Another infamous Chinese dance is the Court Dance. Created, written and choreographed by Tang Dynasty Emperor Xuan Zong (712-756), the dance is also known as the Feather Dress Dance. Costumes are adorned with soft feathers, suggesting lightness and flight. The dance is created by the emperor based on the legend about an emperor who dreams that he travels to the moon and there, in a palace, sees a group of beautiful, heavenly virgins dressed in feather. In order to make his fantasy come true, concubines of Tang Dynasty were made to perform the dance to the Emperor upon awakening.

There are countless types of dances in China and each of them has a significant meaning and, probably, a whole legend behind it. So studying Chinese traditional dancing is the most beautiful way to understand Chinese culture.


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