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An APA exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the UCLA Chinese Cultural Dance Club.
On May 7, 2005, the UCLA Chinese Cultural Dance Club (CCDC) held its fifth annual Lotus Steps performance at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. The show, like its predecessors, was an unequivocal success, attracting students, family, and members of the campus community. The UCLA CCDC was started in February 2000 by several UCLA alumnae, including current artistic director Josephine Louie. The founders had their first experience with Chinese cultural dance through their participation in the annual culture show put on by the Association of Chinese Americans (ACA), another club at UCLA. After their first taste for it, they felt that there should be a club solely dedicated to Chinese cultural dance rather than just being a footnote in the ACA show. The mission statement for the club is sharing Chinese culture through dance. Upon its establishment, CCDC began offering free Chinese dance courses to the UCLA community, and envisioned what was to become the annual Lotus Steps show.
The first Lotus Steps show was held in November 2000 at UCLA’s Northwest Auditorium with only 15 performers, two completed dances, and one act. The success of the first show began building momentum for the club, and attracted many more members. In 2001, then-freshman Jessica Lee joined the club, and began helping with the choreography and organization, alleviating the demand that more members brought. Evolution of CCDC continued in 2002, when Louie invited several young girls to participate in the Lotus Steps show and the club itself. The girls were part of Families with Children from China (FCC), a support network for families that had adopted Chinese children. The collaboration set up in 2002 has been maintained, with FCC participation increasing annually. The collaboration also allows the college-aged club members to act as mentors for the elementary and middle school aged children. As the club grew, the production of the Lotus Steps show has also grown.
The professionalism that is employed by the CCDC is astounding considering their humble beginnings from 2000. Each subsequent show attracted more and more community volunteers to help produce it. This year, CCDC culled community talent for its musical accompaniment, including the L.A. Quintonix Chinese Instrumental Ensemble, the Pasadena Young Musicians Orchestra, and the South Bay Children’s Choir. Culturally, the club has also expanded. This year, in addition to performing the traditional dances of Chinese and Chinese minority cultures, CCDC incorporated modern themes to its second act, set to narrative of various voices expressing the Chinese-American experience. The goal was to hybridize modern dance style with Chinese dance movements.
So what did the dancers themselves have to say? Surprisingly, many expressed a preference for the traditional segment, which serves as the primary foundation for the more crowd-friendly modern dance moves. However, they were careful not to discount the inclusion of modern dance in the program, reminding the heretofore uninformed that Chinese dance isn't all ribbons and indigenous rhythms, but a distinct and always-evolving art form. The ornate costumes were also a point of pride for the CCDC members, who revealed that they designed the costumes themselves. Still, one fact remains indisputable: that the CCDC is not just an exercise in after-school frivolity, but a seamless blend of cultural sustenance and lifelong companionship -- a perfect complement to the daily wear and tear of academia.
-- Larry Kao (assisted by Victoria Chin)
Date Posted: 5/26/2005