Classical Chinese dance has a long history of thousands of years, and while soaking up profound wisdom from every era and dynasty, it has become a complete system of dance, embodying traditional aesthetic principles. Classical Chinese dance has three main components—bearing, form, and technical skill.

Bearing

Bearing is the translation of a specific Chinese term (yun) that can best be described as a particular inner spirit. It is formed by a combination of something resembling cultural DNA or an ethnic flavor in Chinese people’s bones, together with the heritage of 5,000 years of Chinese civilization. Bearing emphasizes internal spirit, breath, intent, personal aura, and deep emotional expression. In essence, the spirit leads form, so that form is imbued with spirit.

The bearing of classical Chinese dance blends many elements. For example, “three round movements” form the foundation for the direction of movement, while the waist serves as an axis for the lifting and sinking of the torso with breath, the protruding and leaning back of the torso on a diagonal axis, the rounding in and rounding out of the chest, the movement of the ribs, and so on. These basic elements endow classical Chinese dance with incredible expressivity, and vast creative potential. It can nimbly portray movements from daily life, as well as profoundly express the innermost transformation of one’s emotional state.

 

Form

Form refers to the techniques and methods expressed externally, including the hundreds of exquisite movements and postures. Even though many of these poses might look very simple, they actually require the perfect coordination of every part of the body. For example, the movement and rotation of the trunk, the direction of the gaze, the placement of the fingers, and so on, all require accuracy and coordination.

Technical Skill

Technical skill in classical Chinese dance refers to a series of highly difficult techniques, including jumping and leaping, turning, and flipping. These techniques serve to enhance bearing and form.

Flips are classical Chinese dance’s most distinct techniques, and they include two main classifications. One is “flipping the body,” which is a series of turning movements wherein the waist is the axis and the dancer’s torso is slightly tilted. The second is aerial or tumbling techniques, and is one of the most difficult kinds of techniques.

All these jumping, turning, and flipping techniques, along with the exquisiteness of the bearing and form, give classical Chinese dance special expressivity. It is able to transcend ethnic, cultural, and even linguistic barriers, taking this well-established Chinese culture and presenting its essence to the world.

Shenyun

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