World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Hai Yan Jackson Chinese Dance Company

Dance Origin: China
Chinese – Qiang
Artistic Director: Hai Yan Jackson

First Appearance in SF EDF: 2010

Hai Yan Jackson Chinese Dance Company was established in 2007. Hai Yan was dancer, instructor, and choreographer at the Sichuan Opera and Dance Company for more than thirty years. She now teaches at the San Francisco Dance Center and she is a Stanford University Chinese guest teacher. The company was created to promote the development, advancement, and appreciation of Chinese dance and culture in the Bay Area.


Title: Qiang Ling
Du Gao
Choreography Set by:
Hai Yan Jackson
Soloist: Shannon Tse
usic by: Feixu Yuan

In Qiang Ling, a Qiang shepherding girl dances in a high mountain meadow to a joyful song, expressing her love of this beautiful and bright life. She calls her sheep with hand bells that symbolize protection, and her dance focuses on footwork patterns named “skip shalang," “skip armor,” and “leather drum." The lyrics express auspicious congratulations and thankfulness, while narrating family histories and the achievements of the ancestors.

About 360,000 Qiang people live in the high Himalayan plateaus of China's southwest Sichuan province—in stone villages with few modern improvements. The name Qiang is Han Chinese for nomadic people; the Qiang call themselves Erma. They are one of China's oldest ethnic groups, ancestors of both Tibetan and Han Chinese. Ancient inscriptions on tortoise shells place their ancestors in the northwest and central plains of China as early as the Shang Dynasty (16-11 BCE). This performance is particularly poignant, as Hai Yan Jackson has set choreography by Gao Du to honor thousands of Qiang schoolchildren killed in Sichuan's 2008 earthquake.

Like many of the world's ancestral people, the Qiang people never developed an historical script, but preserved their history, culture, and traditions in physical symbols: the integrated and expressive language of folk song and dance. In Qiang communities everyone sings and dances whenever possible, often times until dawn. Sometimes the singing is a capella, and some dances are accompanied by traditional instruments: Qiang flute; an ancient six-scale clarinet with double pipes; small gongs; hand bells; suona trumpet; and sheepskin drums.

Traditional Qiang clothing is a loose gown topped with a sleeveless wool jacket, and often, cloth-bound hair and legs. Women wear lace collars decorated with silver and pointed, embroidered yun yun shoes, among other accessories.

Thirteen-year-old soloist Shannon Tse is passionate about dancing, and has studied ballet since she was five. She also studies Chinese folk dance, modern dance, hip-hop, and jazz. Qiang Ling was created in 2006 by Professor Gao Du from Beijing Dance Academy, and was set by Hai Yan Jackson in 2009.


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