Posts Tagged ‘Dartington Hall Trust’

Si Ji: A Night of Chinese Dance

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Gina (front) and Geneva (behind) along with Macarena and Allison, dance to native Taiwanese and African dances

At the Idyllwild Arts Dance Department, they study mostly modern, ballet and jazz dance techniques–all Western styles of dance. However, for one night on Wednesday, May 19, a senior dance student introduced traditional Chinese dance–with all its history, drama, props and costumes.

“Si Ji,” which means “Four Seasons” in Chinese, was the name of the program that was directed and choreographed by Shih-Ching or “Cyndi.”

Cyndi got a grant from the Transatlantic Arts Consortium, which is a collaboration between CalArts, The Dartington Hall Trust and the Idyllwild Arts Academy.

At Idyllwild Arts (Academy), we have a big international population, and sometimes language is not an effective way for different cultures to communicate,” Cyndi wrote in the program. “I want to bring the community closer together by mixing traditional Chinese dances with those I’m learning at Idyllwild Arts.

“Six weeks ago, these dancers knew nothing about traditional Chinese dance,” Cyndi said to the audience of family, faculty and friends. “Now, they look like they’ve been doing it for years.”

She went on to say that all the dancers in the show had to practice for her show, in addition to the dance choreography show that was presented last week.

“What they’ve done here is nothing short of amazing,” Cyndi said. “They have learned a brand new style of dance and they are just beautiful.”

All of the dancers included: Adrianna, Dakota, Macarena, Kayla, Ellen, Anna, Mariana, Giovanna, Gina, Paulina, Hailey, Madison, leva, Justin, Olivia, Geneva, Alison, Sorelle and Ariann.

There were eight pieces in all to match the four seasons. Naturally, the first two dances focused on summer, including “Beautiful Sky and “Riverside.” For these two, Cyndi mixed the Double Fans dance with modern, and the Dai dance with jazz.

For “Maple Rain,” the third dance about fall, included ballet, modern and classical Chinese dance. The whole thing reminded me of the opening ceremonies at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Naturally, the costume colors were muted orange, yellow and cream. The dancers began by lifting up large strips of sheer fabric. The dancers ran with it, did cartwheels with it, threw it up and then twirled it around and around. One of the dancers (leva), even got wrapped up in it, and was carried away by Justin.

The music, by David Karagianis, was frenetic, yet matched the pace of the dancers.

The other standout piece for fall was “A La Ke,” which mixed native Taiwanese, African and modern dance. The costumes for this piece were simple, shredded or torn white oversized shirts, with black tap pants underneath and no shoes. Yet, it was the music that moved this piece. It was by Indian Tribal Spirit, and gave the impression of traditional “bird songs,” or chanting.

The four dancers danced together in a circle, holding hands. Then they’d break away, and lean down with their arms folded, getting closer to Mother Earth.

For “Adagio Sorrow,” the first winter, the pace was slower, and the costumes were white, trimmed in pale lavender. The piece opened with the dancers’ backs to the audience, and their hands over their faces.

Dakota wore the most ornate Chinese costume, with oversized sleeves that hung about six feet beyond her hands. It was called the “sleeve dance.” She threw them out like a slinky, and drew them back to her almost immediately. They transformed her into another being, a spynx, or a spider, with arms or legs with extraordinary reach. And all around her, with elegant ballet steps, were Adrianna, Giovanna and Paulina.

Spring Swings mixed traditional Chinese folk with the fan dance

For the second winter dance entitled, “Ullr,” or the “ribbons dance,” we were hypnotized. Ariann and Sorelle, the two dancers, moved their ribbons like an expert Chinese dancer. The approximately 40-foot ribbons of sheer material were draped around their necks, and handled with their hands.

Several times throughout the piece, Ariann made dramatic circular motions with the ribbon, creating a moon or world around her. Most of the time, they flipped them high into the air, in perfect synchronicity. They looked a lot like Circus d’ Sole dancers.

“It looks like there are sticks in the material by their hands,” said Simone Huls, an ESL teacher at Idyllwild Arts. “Otherwise, they’d be wiped out by all that movement.”

The spring dance, “A Girl from Tian Shan, was an Uyghur dance style, and featured only leva. It looked like a folk dance from eastern Europe or India. leva’s costume was colorful, in bright yellow, green and pink. It looked like something a belly dancer would wear, with a beaded top and bare midriff. To accentuate the beat, leva played a tamborine.

As a senior, leva knew how to dance and command the audience’s attention. Jim Bum, who was seated with friends in the audience, noticed the dramatic shadows leva was casting on the wall. It was as if there were two performances going on.

For the final number, “Spring Swings,” all of the dancers took to the stage with white outfits and colorful fans. The upbeat, flute music by Teresa Wong, was perfect. In essence, there was beauty in the uniformity of the piece.

Afterwards, the dancers received a standing ovation, along with whoops and hollars from the audience. Ellen Rosa, the head of the Dance Department at Idyllwild Arts, who was standing by the door, said that Cyndi did a great job.

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