World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Grace Lee Grant

Dance Origin: China
Traditional Chinese Classic Dance
Manager: Ping Yan 
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2009

5,000 years ago, the ancient Chinese chose dance as the art form to pay respect to heaven and the divine, to appreciate the universe and life, and to praise kindness and virtue. Dance was celebrated in many regional forms and genres for centuries. Then in 1919, the unique system known as classical Chinese dance was born, when dedicated artists began to document and formally combine cultural diverse elements. Artists merged elements of folk operas; ballet technique, including the port de bras with its flowing movement, rounded arms, and simple and graceful hands; and Chinese martial art forms—including flips and tumbling. Classical dance is highly technical. Movements called “body techniques” are accurate and precise, and every movement is interconnected. The form also reflects the divine, and so dancers must "let the movements be lead by spirit” and perfect their moral character and willpower.  

Grace Lee Grant is American-born Chinese and has been studying Chinese culture since she was four. She has trained in Western ballet and received merit scholarships with the San Francisco Ballet, School of America Ballet, and American Ballet Theater. She won many dance awards at a young age including YAGP Regional Grand Prix and Championship of United States International Multi-Arts Festival. She dances to share the vivid stories and ancient wisdom of Chinese history and traditional culture, a recognition which Grace says, "emphasizes one's cultivation, self-control and harmony . . . . and helps one resist the temptations of the modern world."  


Title: Brushing On My Heartstring
Ms. Tong Rui, Mrs. Yang Lion
Grace Lee Grant

. . . We give our attention to beautiful poems.
When the mind is exalted, the body is lightened

And feels as if it could float in the wind . . .

Wei Yingwu (Tang Dynasty)

Beside flowing water, and under the shadow of majestic mountains, a young girl enjoys writing a poem. She dances alone and focuses herself to create the beautiful calligraphy. As the spirit flows through her; music, dancer, brush, and word become one.

Grace wears a Tang Dynasty court dance costume decorated with plum blossoms, symbols of resilience and perseverance. Her silk fan pantomimes the brush. The music of a classic Chinese palace guzheng (a form of zither) evokes a cascading waterfall, flowing water, and scenic countryside.

This dance was created in 2001 for the China Classic Dance Competition by Tong Rui. It was performed at San Jose Montgomery Theater for the China SiChuan Earth Quake Donation in 2008. Grace Lee Grant is performing it for the first time today. This choreography is famous among Chinese dancers for its high technique; it is also unusual for the untraditionally strong feminine role, as the girl boldly writes her thoughts.

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