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  1. Philosophies 


In China, traditional dance forms are guided by philosophies found within the overarching culture. Traditional Chinese art is heavily influenced by Taoism; the belief that humans are one with nature.  Various artistic disciplines share the fundamental interest in finding inspiration from nature to create art. The concept of achieving a balance between Ying and Yang is also essential for poets, musicians, dancers, calligraphers, and painters alike.  Examples of this philosophy can be found in the often contrary, but interdependent patterns in nature. The rotation of the earth from sun-rise to sun-set causes changes in shadows and light. The dark side of the mountain becomes bright, water flows in a stream, sounds of  pine trees wave in the wind, and the movements of animals are all urging us to observe and feel. The various dynamics, and rhythms of the universe create an on-going energy that seeks to fulfill the circle of life. Circular patterns in dance are symbolic of this ongoing energy.

Chinese painting and dance focus on the same philosophy of four elements. Chi describes the breath of internal energy, Yung the flowing of rhythm, Sheng life, and Dong motion, or the ability to evoke liveliness. Each element contributes to a dancer’s training and artistry when performing. Music also greatly contributes to the way that traditional dance is performed. The term Yue Wu, or Music Dance, was recorded in historical Chinese documents and describes the inseparable nature of the two art forms. In fact, unlike many Western Modern dance forms, music and dance are always performed together.


“I believe that Shen (Spirit) is the most important aspect of my work as an artist. It can be expressed through the colors of ink, the lines of the brush stroke or by complex body movements.”

Nai-Ni Chen


Questions to ask before the performance: 

How do you think dance is the same and/or different around the world?

How do rituals, festivals, and celebrations relate to dance?

Do you think the geographic area affects how dance looks?

Who participates in dance in China? What about in your own culture?


During the Performance: 

Watch how the dancers perform with concentration and control on stage.

Listen to the music and see if you can identify what instruments are being used.

How are the colors and styles of the costumes different from the clothes you are wearing?

Observe how the dancers use their eye focus and hand gestures to add drama and to connect with the audience.


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