World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


China Dance School and Theatre

Chinese Classical, Folk
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2006

China Dance Theatre was founded in 2003 by Kaiwen You and Aiping Zhou, professors and experts in Chinese ethnic and folk dance, hailing from the acclaimed Beijing Dance Academy. The company's mission is to introduce, celebrate, and nurture the rich heritage of Chinese ethnic and folk dance, and to open dialogue and mutual respect with communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. 



Chinese Classical
TITLE: Qiao Hua Dan
Kaiwen You
Ling Li Liu
Jennifer Chen, Debbie Cheng, Stephanie Chuong, Sophie Go, Ruby Holman,Rebecca King, Emma Levine, Julia Li, Tayler Lim, Brittany Tam, Emily Thoman, Irene Wang, Jennifer Wong, Crystal Yao, Charlotte Young,Yiting Zhang
Yessenia Chiau, Eleanor Feng, Anna Fung, Chanel Kong, Crystal Lee, Jasmine Lee, Victoria Lee, Emma Levine,Tayler Lim, Shirley Liu, Michelle Wu, Crystal Yao, Chang You, Charlotte Young

Sichuan is a large province in southwest China, home to eighty-seven million people. It's capital city, Chengdu, has been famous since the 13th century for luxurious silks, satins, brocades, and lacquer ware. The Sichuan Opera is Chendgu's sophisticated regional theater, known for its wit, lively dialogues, high-pitched tunes, and clownish stunts. Most of the Opera's over 2,000 repertoires are adapted from classical novels, legends, and folk tales. The characters of Sichuan Opera are classified into five main roles—Sheng, the male, Dan, the female, Jing, the painted-face, Chou, the clown, and Mo, the middle-aged male narrator—with sub-roles for diverse ages and personalities. Hua Dan, is the "Florist Role," one of the most expressive characters. She is the pretty, cheerful, and coquettish young woman.

Oh Attractive Hua Dan, Joie de vivre,
Facial expression of amusement, Brightening of the face and eyes.

In Qiao Hua Dan, a high-pitched soprano summons the Hua Dan girls, who are keen to show off their colorful garments and their coy demeanor. With nimble eye and hand expressions, they play a game of show-and-chase, inviting us into their playful world. This contemporary choreography uses the vocabulary of Chinese classical dance—waist twisting, head shaking, and silly, squatting clown steps. The silk costumes—with rainbow colors and embroidery—are adapted from traditional styles, with extra-large peonies to symbolize happiness, harmony, and spring. The striking headress is often seen in Sichuan opera: the dancers flaunt their pheasant feathers and swing their braids to become the sassy and adorable females of the past.

The music is played by the traditional Chinese instruments, banhu, suna, erhu, and pipa, as well as Sichuan local percussion instruments, and electronic piano. The soprano singing is in the Sichuan style, and the yodeling chorus, which is unique among all the Chinese operas, creates percussion-like vocal rhythms with lyrics in the regional dialect.



GENRE: Chinese Classical Dance
TITLE: Woman General
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR:          Kaiwen You
SOLOIST: Crystal Lee

Chinese dance incorporates many forms of performing arts from the many ethnic groups and historical periods that span its five thousand year history. Prior to the Han Dynasty, 206 BCE to 220 CE, most Chinese dances originated from the vernacular dance of the village people. In the Tang Dynasty of the 7th to 10th centuries, a more codified system of court entertainment developed. This evolved into several forms of Chinese theatrical dance, which by the mid 19th century became influenced by Russian ballet. Thus, what is now known as Chinese classical dance actually blends elements of Chinese theatrical traditions such as the Peking Opera, with movement vocabulary from Western ballet and China’s rich ethnic minority traditions. Dances can appear “Western,” yet draw on facets of China's extensive heritage, which contains fifty-six distinct ethnic minority groups.

Chinese operas often contain complex story lines with multiple characters singing, dancing, and reciting poetry. These multi-faceted productions enact timeless heroic legends from China’s immense recorded history. In classical dance, a soloist or group performs shorter vignettes of a much longer narrative in a more abstract, symbolic manner. Woman General, performed by soloist Crystal Lee is one such example. It is based on the story of a heroine named Mu Gui Ying of the Northern Song Dynasty (960 to 1127 CE).

As a young wife to the commander-in-chief of China’s Imperial Army, Mu Gui Ying looses her husband as well as his thirteen brothers in the battle against northern invaders. Upon hearing the sad news, she vowed to carry out her husband’s wish of protecting the frontier by succeeding in his position as General, while leading women warriors. By her courage and tenacity, she was able to defeat the enemy. The Woman General portrays the unyielding perseverance in the face of hardship. Mu Gui Ying broke the traditional restraints imposed upon women of her day; she proved a woman can be a good leader and carry on the family mission while demonstrating unconditional patriotism to her country. Her brave deeds have made her a legend in Chinese lore throughout many generations.

The dance choreography incorporates elements from the Peking Opera such as the costume, headpiece, and musical instruments, while the dance technique is classical Chinese representing the feminine side of heroism. In the middle of the dance, the soloist garbs herself with armor and a headpiece made from a pair of five-feet long pheasant tail feathers to signify her transformation to General.


GENRE: Dai Ethnic Dance
TITLE: Girl In Spring Rain
Ding Wei
: Lina Yang

Even though China is the most populous country with the largest cities in the world, the majority of its inhabitants live in rural areas. Yunnan is a province located in the southwest of China, with land bordering Tibet, Vietnam and Laos, with the Tropic of Cancer running through it. In its subtropical climate, flora, fauna and minerals abound; there are over 18,000 species of plants and 150 kinds of minerals found in the region. Water is a vital part of the province, as four major rivers run through it, and there is abundant rainfall, four times the amount that falls in other parts of China.

Living in the southern part of Yunnan, the Dai people, closely related to the Thai people, form one of China’s 56 officially recognized ethnic groups. They are among the few groups that practice Theravada Buddhism along with their native customs. Dai people use dance to express their love of the lush environment they inhabit. Animal motifs are often incorporated in their dances, and as rain is a notable part of their everyday life, it is celebrated in the springtime Water-Splashing Festival. Because of the Buddhist influence, common dance movements, such as outstretched fingers and flexed feet can be seen on ancient sculptures and are reflected in Dai dance steps.

Yang, of the China Dance School and Theatre, performs Girl in Spring Rain, a lighthearted dance depicting a young Dai girl playing in the rain and water of her beloved homeland. It is a contemporary dance specifically choreographed for the stage, yet it draws on the unique characteristics and style of traditional Dai folk dances. The distinctive and elegant movements of the “Peacock Dance,” “Candle Dance,” “Long Nails Dance,” and “Fish Dance,” are all incorporated into the choreography.

The costume represents traditional Dai dress with ornaments representing the sun, moon and stars. The long narrow skirt causes the dancer to take tiny delicate steps, and the broad-rimmed pointed crown straw hat is unique to the culture. The music blends old instruments, typical of the region, with a modern symphonic and electronic orchestra.

Sixteen-year-old Lina Yang began training in dance only four years ago and was discovered recently by China Dance Theater’s director Kaiwen You. Hailing from the acclaimed Beijing Dance Academy, Professor You began a dance academy in 2003 and has since expanded its outreach to include a performing company devoted to Chinese folk dancing with modern and traditional roots.

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