Classical Chinese Dance

Chinese dance is divided into two categories. One category is based upon the warrior exercises of Chinese warriors. The other is based on Confucian etiquette and ritual dances. The second form evolved over time to turn into today’s classical Chinese dance.

The history of classical Chinese dance date back to the Quin Dynasty of 220BC, where images of dancers in temple rituals were seen in artwork on pottery. Each dynasty that followed had their own specific moves or movement qualities that they favored and incorporated into their own ritual dances. Therefore Chinese dance ultimately was created by the 5,000 year old history of China.


Classical Chinese dance has three main components that the dancers focus on in their training. They are technical skill, form and bearing. Technical skill involves acrobatics such as flips, jumps, and front/backhand springs. It also includes leaps, aerial tricks and difficult turns that resemble the rapid turning of figure skaters in ice. Many of the difficult and more physical tumbling techniques were originally derived from the warrior form of the dance but were later added as warriors weren’t as necessary due to modern war technology. These acrobatic moves displayed the physicality of how to shield themselves and attack their opponent during man on man combat. The second aspect, form, refers to the pathway that the dancers take their bodies from one movement to the other. The pathway is always circular and full (not long and r

igid like ballet). Not only must the continuous path be circular but each articulated movement in the form of classical Chinese dance is specifically choreographed. This includes the specificity of the angle of the hand and wrist in relation to the angle, of the head, focus of the eyes and expression on the dancers face. Additionally the dancers are taught how and when to use their breath and knowing where exactly the movement comes to rest. Breath is one of the most crucial elements of Chinese dance. It leads the body through the phrases in a way that aids the fluidity of the circular motion. In the practice of the form dancers strive for excellence in twisting leaning roundness and flexion. In the east its is said that the is “beauty in roundness.” All movement pathways must be rounded and full. Bearing of the material is something that many believe makes classical Chinese dance special. It is the cultural heritage behind the movement that native Chinese dancers are able to bring to the material that they are performing. It could also be seen as the pride of dancing an art that your country has create.

In performance the character that which performed it alters many of the movement. For example a womanly character will flow through the movements and sustain others. While on the other hand masculine character movements may contain more sudden movement with accents

Chinese dance is intriguing to me because of its circular pathways. They are hypnotizing to watch. As I tried to recreate them myself I understood the importance of flexibility in Chinese dance. My joints were being used in every direction to imitate the fullness of the movement.

Posted by: Gina Krempasky



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