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Dance Department

The Classical Chinese Dance Program

Classical Chinese dance is one of the most comprehensive dance systems in the world. The proposed program offers systematic professional training in classical Chinese dance, with an emphasis in performance, pedagogy, or production. The two major components of Chinese dance performance are the technique and the spirit (shen yun or inner meaning). The technical courses in the program in combination with the series of courses on shen yun help students acquire the techniques as well as an understanding of the spirit of Chinese dance. Learning about the spirit aspect of Chinese dance feeds into the unique intellectual and cultural atmosphere of the College.

Much like ballet, classical Chinese dance has a unique dance heritage. In its early stages, it was mainly passed down through the imperial court. Over the course of 5,000 years of Chinese history, dancers reorganized, refined, experimented with, and honed the art form to arrive at the extraordinary system of classical Chinese dance that has been handed down to us today. It is part of China’s divinely inspired classical culture, and one means by which the culture continues to live.

Classical Chinese dance involves a complete set of training methods for foundational skills, including bearing, form, and demanding aerial techniques. All of these add up to an enormously rich dance system. The aerial movements of classical Chinese dance involve high-flying dives, leaps, and spins. An enormous degree of physical and technical training is required to master this art form.

Central to classical Chinese dance is its expressive capacity, something best seen in its ability to narrate a tale or event. Ancient legends and heroic figures come to life on stage through leaps, spins, and delicate gestures. Behind almost every movement is a deeper cultural connection. These deeper resonances of traditional Chinese culture give the dancer’s movements a unique, expressive power.

The art form, in a word, runs deep. Like ballet in the West, classical Chinese dance offers a unique window into the culture of its people. It is a vehicle for important values, stories, and ideals. It has served a tremendously important role in shaping Chinese aesthetics and taste for literally millennia.

Since 1949, when China saw the communist party take power, traditional Chinese culture has faced a range of challenges. Various political campaigns during the Mao era saw the art of Chinese dance re-engineered in service of a political agenda (or “revolution”). In short, the art of Chinese dance was inevitably reconfigured and continues to be today, having lost its earlier moorings.

At Fei Tian, we believe that an art form thousands of years old and as culturally significant as classical Chinese dance deserves to be preserved in all its integrity and carried forward.