World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


YaoYong Dance

First Appearance in SF EDF: 2008

YaoYong Dance was founded in 1999 with a mission to provide an environment where the beauty and the philosophy of Chinese culture can be learned and appreciated through the history and the elegant movement of Chinese dance. YaoYong Dance’s curriculum is based mainly on the systematic approach of the Beijing Dance Academy, where learning dance is an art as well as a science. With an emphasis on basic training and body rhythm, students are introduced to various Chinese folk dances, ethnic dances, and Chinese classical dances. The school also offers training in ballet and contemporary dance.


GENRE: Folkloric (Mongolian)
TITLE: Song of the Nomads
DANCERS: Grace Chen, Jill Chen, Janice Cheng, Carol Han, Chieko Honma, Cherry Liu, Yi Liu, Lucy Lu, Cindy Pan, Jennifer Wong, Maggie Xu, Yvonne Zhong

Song of the Nomads joyfully celebrates life on the Mongolian plains. In blue dresses evoking the vast northern sky, the graceful YaoYong dancers mirror the beating of an eagle’s wings, and activities such as milking, playing an instrument riding horses, and spinning in spiritual trance.

This folk dance choreography is by Artistic Director Yong Yao, based on choreography from the Department of Chinese Ethnic and Folk Dance at the distinguished Beijing Dance Academy, where he trained. The traditional Mongolian movements include:

• tang bou shou, the forearm rotating outward and making a sudden circular
throw, as if playing a two-string instrument.

• tang bu: walking in a straight line with the whole foot close to the ground,
confidently leaning back slightly as if viewing the boundless prairie.

• yin jian: shoulders moving forward and back in crisp rhythm as dancers face
each other in friendliness.

• ji nai shou: mimicking milking a cow and goat

• yin wan: short, quick movements of the wrists.

Within nomadic communities of the Chinese autonomous region of Mongolia, culture bearers are mostly elderly. Most old dance forms—traditionally passed down in apprenticeships—are disappearing, or merging with other traditions, preserved in institutions as folk dance. Mongolian biyelgee dance, for example, is listed by UNESCO as a Critically Endangered Intangible World Heritage. Biyelgee originated in compact spaces: round, felt-lined tents called gers. It’s performed half sitting or cross-legged. Hand, shoulder, and leg movements—we see some of them in this performance—mimic activities of work and religion. Nomadic dancing expresses ethnic identity. According to UNESCO, Dörvöd and Torguud groups sing while dancing; Buryat dancers circle in the direction of the sun and a soloist improvises verses; Bayid dancers squat while balancing mugs of milk on their knees; Dörvöd dancers balance milk mugs on their heads and hands.

The dancers’ costumes are based on Mongolian dress, with beaded headpieces and long dresses with round skirts, a Mongolian style to showcase spinning. Traditional Mongolian dancers decorate clothing with furs and various patterns and decorations to show their local identities.



TITLE: Big River
: Jenny Fong, Kelly Ju, Jessica Lee, Grace Lin, Susan Lin, Christina Liou, Cindy Tang, Lanjun Wang, Pearl Wang, Alyssandra Wu, Allison Yu, Davina Ziegele

The Big River ripples, wide and uncontrolled
The gentle breeze carries the fragrance of rice crops along the riverbank

My home is by the river

Everyday, the familiar sound of the ships’ horns blowing in the air
Everyday, the familiar sight of white sails moving across the river

China's many rivers are at the heart of its civilization and culture. The Big River is a celebratory dance—celebrating the vibrant communities along the river, and honoring the river as a source of life and sustenance. The dance also celebrates the symbolic river of history and culture flowing from China through the Chinese diaspora. The dancers' costumes reflect practical farmer's clothing, and the brilliant red marks a time for festivity, good luck, and joy—as well as contrast, energy, and passion. The gold symbolizes firecrackers, and the peony is a harbinger of spring.

The Big River integrates two unique elements of the playful and deliberate yang-ge dance style—with movements and steps inspired by farmers along the Yangtze and Huanghe Rivers. It also honors three natures of the river: calm, rippling, and wild.

Jiaozhou yang-ge originated in the Shang Dong province, which lies in the lower reaches of the Huanghe (Yellow) River. The dancers exhibit inner strength and extension, and close "V" pattern footwork. Flowing silk fans represent the river in its calm and static state. The song, Big River, describes the beautiful countryside of northern China, and praises the people for working hard.

Dongbei yang-ge originated in northeastern China, where winters are extremely cold. The footwork is swift and clean, and the body movement is also crisp. The dancers' handkerchiefs evoke the warm days of spring when water ripples easily along, with pleasant splashes from rocks and animals. The music is a contemporary version of a folk song from the northern Shang Xie province.

The red ribbon dance celebrates the river in its fearsome mode, as it floods and fertilizes the land. The red ribbons represent the rising water—powerful and destructive. Where there is water, there is life


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