Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company presents
Forms in Motion
A Workshop in
Dance and Chinese Calligraphy
Length of the Workshop: 45 minutes per session.
The rationale for the workshop:
In China, the art of calligraphy is respected as the most supreme of all art form because the Chinese people believe that “calligraphy comprises, along with traditional Chinese painting, the mainstream of China’s art history.” “Calligraphy can bring physical and spiritual benefits to the practitioner,” and it “can even refine one’s personality and change one’s outlook on life.” *
As members of the global village, Americans need to know more about the Chinese people which make up one-fourth of the world’s population. Learning about the Chinese language and the art of the Chinese calligraphy will enable students to explore Chinese beliefs and values in more depth. The understanding students can gain through the workshop activities will serve as a starting point of their exploration, which may, in turn, shed light on their future career and their personal growth as well.
The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Co. has started a journey of exploration in linking the forms of dance and calligraphy. This trial has made it possible for students to break through the artificial divisions of disciplines, and to integrate language, brush writing art and dance into a unified whole concept. We believe that this kind of interdisciplinary studies is appealing to the students at the elementary level, or at the middle, even the high school levels. It will make the learning come alive and full of fun. It will also encourage the students to observe language and arts with a new integrated point of view.
Thinking Skills Objectives:
Level: Can be tuned to any level, K-12, college, even adult learning
by Nai-Ni Chen
This is the workshop I have developed over the past years to introduce people to the beauty of dance and its relationship with the Chinese written language. The process provides us with a way to link language, visual art with dance and movement. It also points out the significant difference between the way the Chinese people think and learn and how western people think and learn.
For me, coming from one of the most ancient cultures in the world, I believe in the value in traditional art. The creative spirit in traditional art forms is timeless and universal. The knowledge within the art can be applied to the present time and serve as the foundation for creative work in this society today.
In China, the art of calligraphy is represented as the most supreme of all art form because the Chinese people believe that calligraphy communicates through language, but also conveys the subtle emotional and spiritual condition of the writer through visual expression. The Chinese people believe Calligraphy can bring physical and spiritual benefits to the practitioner, and it can even refine one’s personality and change one’s outlook on life.
The very compressed workshop you are seeing today links the creative ideas of modern dance and Chinese calligraphy. I think this process can help students to break through the artificial divisions of disciplines and to integrate language, brush writing and dance into a unified whole concept. It makes learning come alive and full of fun. It also encourages the students to observe language and arts with a new, integrated point of view.
I begin with my students by looking at Chinese Calligraphy from the visual art perspective. Children view the written characters as drawings. They see shapes, lines and the flow of energy rather than a foreign language, so they could cross the culture boundary and respond to it right away. I use the visual elements as guidance to inspire them to move like a brush pen on paper. This way, children do not get self-conscious about moving around. Without noticing it, they are dancing with their full body with the flow of the calligraphic strokes. And, because many Chinese characters are based on the image of the object or action, the second step in the workshop is to introduce the meanings behind each symbol/character. This actually is fun for them, because the process of this learning is to associate natural images with the drawings, and the result then becomes a Chinese character.
Concentration – grind ink/meditation (breathing, circular movement as a warm-up)
Four treasures in calligraphy- Brush, Ink, Paper, Inkstone/body, energy, and space.
Relationship – strokes on paper in Chinese Calligraphy vs. Movements in space
Basic strokes-basic strokes in calligraphy include the circular, move back before move forward concept. And apply different dynamic and rhythm to each stroke. The direct and indirect concept can be seen in Laban analysis-Effort/ shape. Relate each stroke to dance movement.
Composition – the contrast between black ink and white paper (empty space is important). Dance movement phrase show the contrast of motion and silence.
Dragon – Wild grass script of Dragon/ribbon.