Dance China New York performers presented two shows on Monday, November 25, during an assembly for Head O’ Meadow students.
Amy Fralley, co-chair of the PTA Cultural Arts Committee and mother of a third grade student, explained she had been researching different assemblies to come to the school. Her goal for bringing Dance China New York to the students was, “to offer diversity to their learning.”
The members of Dance China New York that attended the assembly included JiaYan “Jessie” Yong, GuiXuan Zhuang, Bei Zheng, Lisha Yang, and Zhongqi Mao, all of whom started dancing from a young age in China.
The group performed their act China Patterns. The website for the troupe’s agency, Arts for Learning Connecticut, reads, “This dance program, performed in full traditional Chinese costumes, introduces students to Chinese culture through language lessons, historical background, onstage demonstrations and audience interaction. The dances and narration illustrate and explain traits, customs and patterns of Chinese life.”
Ms Yong, who went by her American name Jessie for the students, started the assembly by teaching the children to say, “Hi, how are you?” in Chinese. She broke down the phrase character by character. The children then practiced by turning to the person sitting next to them and repeating the phrase.
After that lesson, Ms Yong explained how China is one of the oldest civilizations and has a total of 56 ethnic groups.
Dance China New York was able to showcase a variety of the ethnic group throughout the dances. Not only would the dance itself pertain to a specific culture, but the performers would also change their wardrobe and props to replicate the particular ethnic group’s style and culture.
The first dance that Dance China New York did was taken from the Han. Ms Yong made sure to teach the audience important facts about the ethnic group. She explained how the Han are considered the largest ethnic group in China and make up 95 percent of the Chinese population.
The Peacock Dance, which included one female dancer adorned with a skirt that was designed to look like peacock feathers, followed.
In the third dance, large pink fans were used to help replicate the elegance of a crane. The dance represented the Chinese group that lives closest to Korea who believe cranes bring good luck.
The next dance was also from the Han group and included two male performers. One dancer used a tassel sword as a prop while the other used a kung fu fan. This particular fan differs from the previous fans used because it was smaller, made a loud noise when opened, had a picture of a dragon displayed on it, and said “Kung Fu” across the fan.
During the dance, the fan would open abruptly with a loud grating noise. It caused the students to jump and erupt in giggles every time. Not only did this dance teach the students about what kung fu fan was, but it also introduced them to tai chi. Ms Yong had all the students stand and instructed them on how to do different the tai chi moves.
The fifth and final dance was from the Mongolian ethnic group, who use regular items like chopsticks for props when dancing. Ms Yong explained that chopsticks can be used as a utensil to eat with, a dance prop, and even an instrument.
For the Red Ribbon Dance, Ms Yong chose six girls and boys from the crowd to accompany her onstage and hold a long flowing red ribbon. The students learned three different moves: the Rainbow (where the ribbon flutters left to right over head), the Dragon (where the ribbon whips up and down to the side of them), and the Firework (where the ribbon zigzags in front of them).
Upon learning the individual moves, Ms Yong had the students perform for the crowd. Afterward, the audience of classmates and teachers erupted in applause and the students got celebratory high-fives when returning to their seats. Then the rest of the performers in Dance China New York came out to do their own Red Ribbon Dance.
Before wrapping up the Chinese Dance Assembly, Ms Yong taught the students one last translation and that was “goodbye.”