World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Chinese American International School Dance Troupe

DANCE ORIGIN: Inner Mongolia
GENRE: Inner Mongolia Folk
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2006

What is known as Chinese classical dance actually blends elements of Chinese theatrical traditions such as Peking Opera, with movement vocabulary from both 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 nationalities.

Located in Northern China, the Mongolian nationality is the third largest in China. Horses play a vital role in their daily lives and they travel by horseback in large caravans across the Mongolian steppes in search of water and grazing pastures for their animals.

The Chinese American International School is an innovate pre K-8th grade independent school in San Francisco formed in 1981 which offers bilingual immersion education in American and Chinese culture and language to an ethnically and racially diverse student body. The school’s dance troupe, created in 2002, seeks to increase awareness and interest in Chinese culture through dance education and performance. The company’s choreographer, Ms. Aiping Zhou, studied at the Beijing Dance Academy and later served on its faculty where she won Best Dance Instructor Award for three years.


TITLE OF PIECE: Girls on the Grassland
DANCERS: Mary Elizabeth Dowd, Emma Levine, Tayler Lim, Kira Saks, Emily Thoman, Jennifer Yang-Wong, Crystal Yao, Charlotte Young

Girls on the Grassland performed by the Chinese American International School Dance Troupe draws inspiration from Mongolian girls who grew up traveling across endless stretches of land with their beloved horse companions. Horses are seen as mirrors of the Mongolian people’s own sense of candor, open-heartedness, bravery, loyalty, honesty and joy. Performed by 5th and 6th grade girls, the graceful and gallant movements imitate the movements of horses and their riders.

The dance incorporates notable techniques with specific names associated with Mongolian dance. Bai shou (“waving arms”) illustrates soaring eagles over the grasslands, ying jian (“hard shoulders”) is reminiscent of the back and forth motion of the arms when riding a horse, and ”moon immersion back step,” ”horse step,” and ”cradle step” directly imitate the movements of horses. The girls' costumes are inspired by traditional and contemporary Mongolian dress but use the sacred colors of white and red as the basis. The music blends Mongolian and Chinese instruments with a western symphonic orchestra.

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