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UCLA’s Chinese Cultural Dance Club performs its annual show.
On Saturday, May 7th, 2005, the UCLA Chinese Cultural Dance Club performed its annual Lotus Steps show at Royce Hall, UCLA. The auditorium was packed with students, community members, friends and family of the performers, and people generally interested in cultural events, all wishing to see this yearly display of Chinese cultural dance. This year, however, there was a modern twist to the tradition of Chinese dance; the second act was a series of short dances done entirely in modern dance style, incorporating moves from traditional dance, set to themes of the Chinese American experience.
The show opened with an introduction about the club and a brief history, as well as a fan dance performed by the club’s artistic director, Josephine Louie. After that, the first act featured nine different dances with no repeat of styles. The first dance featured dancers dressed in lotus blossom dresses and a fog machine to give off the appearance of lotus flowers floating on a summer stream. Another was a ribbon dance entitled “flying goddesses,” with two dancers utilizing their ribbons to look like traditional Chinese goddesses. The first act also had several dances in the style of Chinese minorities, including Tibetan, Taiwanese, and Chinese Islamic dances. Another dance featured performer Jessica Lee dancing under a spotlight, with her shadow as part of the performance, reminiscent of an Apple iPod commercial. All of the dances had prerecorded music except for the Tai Chi-esque dance “evening bell,” which featured the music performed by the LA Quintonix Chinese Instrumental Ensemble.
The finale of the first act was a flag dance. The program ran smoothly without any major problems, except for a few minor prop issues during the flag dance. But the performers displayed a high degree of professionalism, quickly adjusting, and the show went on. The second act combined traditional motions and moves with modern dance style to create a hybridized form of dance. Josephine Louie commented that the decision to include modern dance this year was an effort to show that Chinese dance was not just about fans, ribbons, and traditional costumes; there has been a modern evolution, and the second act reflected the adaptation of Chinese traditional dance to modern dance. The act featured seven different dances with music and narration focusing on themes of the Asian American experience, though it seemed to be specifically geared toward Chinese Americans. It was fittingly titled “America!”
In contrast to the first act, the second act used more live music, utilizing the Pasadena Young Musicians Orchestra and the South Bay Children’s Choir for musical accompaniment. The monologue themes in the narration above the music focused on the war-torn immigrant experience -- fleeing China for Taiwan, and later the United States -- Chinese baby adoption into U.S. families, bicultural conflict between Chinese internalized, saving face, Americans seeking outside help with their problems, bi-ethnic identity issues for a Korean-Chinese girl, and anti-Asian racism in the United States despite cultural assimilation. Between the last dance and the finale, there was a photo montage projected onto the background showing the history of Chinese Americans, from the railroad workers to current prominent Chinese Americans such as Yo Yo Ma, and Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang, among others. Overall, the performance was a great showcase of Chinese dance, displaying the wide variety of styles from the varying cultural, regional, and minority groups of Chinese traditional dance in the first act, and showing the adaptation and hybridization of Chinese themes into modern dance by Chinese Americans in the second.
Date Posted: 5/12/2005