I have taken some different styles of dance class since I was three years old. Most of my training was in ballet and modern dance, which means I never studied any eastern styles of dance. I was excited to have the opportunity to study two styles of traditional Chinese dance under 董育欣老師 at the community college. I was very concerned about joining the class due to my limited Chinese conversational skills. In spite of this fear, I registered for the class. I joined a traditional Chinese dance class because in order to participate, I did not need to understand every word the teacher said. Many stories are told using dance, and I often feel that certain feelings can be better conveyed through movement than simply through words. Dance is a universal language through which ideas and emotions can be expressed. I was able to develop relationships and communicate with some women in the class through our shared interest in expression through movement.
I did some research and found videos online of different examples of Dai dance and Mongolian chopsticks, the two classes in which I enrolled. Both styles are very different from ballet, so I was nervous when I arrived at my first class. My body is conditioned to move certain ways, and I naturally wanted to fall back into those ballet combinations. Most of the differences between Chinese dance and ballet centers on arm positions. In ballet, many positions require the palms of your hands to face inward when your arms are extended in front of or above your body. I found that in Chinese dance, particularly Dai dance, your hands face away from your body in those same arm positions. I also found Dai dance to evoke a more flirtatious feeling overall than most ballet or modern dance pieces. While I find ballet dancers to be exceptionally strong in addition to elegant, some pieces often evoke a sense of frailty that I have not seen in the Dai dances. I love that female strength is shown in Dai dance without losing a sense of coyness, which, to me, demonstrates an understanding of female power that comes without brute strength. I was not expecting to feel a sense of empowerment through studying Chinese dance.
I have enjoyed the challenge of learning a new style of dance in a foreign language and also learning more about Chinese culture through the ideas and emotions conveyed through movement. Studying dance was a great way for me to be involved in the community, and I thank everyone from the class for making it such an enriching experience for me.