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From the lush plains of the Yunnan province to the mountains of Tibet and Mongolia, CCDC takes audiences on a path of traditional Chinese dances.
As soon as the lights dimmed, it felt as though I was pulled out of my seat in Royce Hall at UCLA and whisked away to the faraway regions of China as I watched Lotus Steps, the cultural performance by the Chinese Cultural Dance Club (CCDC) on April 27th. The show was an ensemble of traditional dances that ranged from the flower drum dance of the harvest festival to the royal palace fan dance of the Han dynasty.
The show included a special performance by a group of young girls from the "Families with Children from China-Southern California" organization. They performed the koi-inspired "Ga-ba" (The Fish), which was the summer ensemble of the "4 Seasons Suite." The use of a bubble machine helped to transform the stage into an underwater arena where the girls "swam" around in their fish-styled costumes.
One of the highlights of the show was the solo presentation by Shin Yue Wang who performed the "Dance of the Peacock," the signature dance of the Dai people of Yunnan. Appearing on stage in a white dress adorned with peacock feathers, Wang mimicked the gestures of a peacock with her graceful and controlled movements. She was able to capture the mannerisms of the bird with such perfection, that at times, I almost forgot I was witnessing a dance rather than the beautiful bird itself.
The movement, costume, lighting and music of the entire show were combined to enhance the experience as well as create a sort of authenticity. "Great Harvest" featured a great amount of stomping and foot movement that was typical of Taiwanese aboriginal dance, whereas "Dancing on Hillsides" utilized the curvatures of the body to form "three arcs curve," a trademark of the Dai tribe.
Lighting was especially important in conveying the mood of each dance. For example, illuminating the stage in red helped to express the chaos and fervor of "Children of the Prairie" where dancers raced around on imaginary horseback. "Osmanthus Alley" featured pastel lighting, which coupled with drifting paper butterflies, helped to create a feeling of nostalgia.
From the fur-lined vests and bell style wide skirts of Mongolia, to the highly-adorned headdress of the Dai tribe and the long sleeves of Tibet, the costumes not only showed the elaborateness of the production, but reflected the region from where the dance originated. Different types of songs were also used in the representation of various regions, ranging from the Mongolian vocals of Tun Gerarr, to various Chinese instrumental music. Set against the backdrop of the drumming of Kinnara Taiko performing "Ashura: Fighting Spirits," dancers performed chang chuan (Long Fist), a traditional Islamic style of Kung Fu. The African American New Philadelphia AME Adult Choir lent their voices to the contemporary dance piece "Handful of Earth" where they sang a cappella in Chinese as the dancers enacted the immigration experience. There was also creative use of props such as handkerchiefs in "Butterfly in the Spring" and straw hats in "Ti-O-O."
Two acts and fifteen performances later, the dancers made their last curtain call and the lights came back on. With that, the mystical journey came to an end and I found myself back in my seat in Royce Hall auditorium. Within that short one and half hour span, it was as though I had taken a virtual vacation through space and time, enjoying the sights and sounds of traditional Chinese dance.
CCDC was created in February 2000 with the hopes of providing an opportunity for UCLA students to learn about China through its folk dance and music. The first Lotus Steps featured only 15 students and took place at the Northwest Campus Auditorium (NWCA), but within four short years, it has moved its production to the grand Royce Hall and now includes over 150 performers. Other than Lotus Steps, the CCDC has also performed for the Raytheon's Pacific Asian Heritage Night and the International Women's Day Conference at UCLA.
Classes are taught once a week under Artistic Director Josephine Louie. For more information, please visit www.studentgroups.ucla.edu/ccdc/.
Date Posted: 5/7/2004