Fri, Jun 13, 2008 - Page 15 News List

As Chinese as they wanna be

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

Falun Gong-related media outlets are flogging this afternoon’s International Chinese Classic Dance Competition in Changhua County.

PHOTO COURTESY OF NEW TANG DYNASTY TV

It is not often that one must resort to political statements to understand dance, but in the case of the International Chinese Classic Dance Competition (全世界中國舞舞蹈大賽), there is really no other place to start.

Today’s contest at Yuanlin Performance Center (員林演藝廳) — the qualifying round for the Asia-Pacific region — aims to promote, according to a statement published on May 22, 2007, a “purely truthful, purely compassionate and purely beautiful art of dance, as well as enable the world to benefit from traditional Chinese culture.”

The competition is sponsored by the New Tang Dynasty TV (新唐人電視台), a media outlet closely associated with the Falun Gong movement. It was held for the first time last year and, according to the Epoch Times, the print arm of the Falun Gong media empire, was an enormous success. The statement quoted above, published in the Epoch Times, is part of a response to alleged defamation by the Chinese government.

Not surprisingly, this competition shares sponsors — not to mention promotion in certain media outlets — with the Shen Yun Chinese Spectacular (神韻晚會) (see Taipei Times, Feb. 29, Page 13). The latter performed across Taiwan this February and espouses similar if equally vague ideals of presenting a pure distillation of Chinese culture through dance.

According to an interview published in the Epoch Times, last year’s winner in the men’s youth category, Chen Yung-chia (陳永佳), said that by bringing Chinese people from around the world together and putting Chinese culture firmly onto the world stage, New Tang Dynasty was providing a huge opportunity for Chinese dancers and for the development of Chinese dance.

The question that is raised by this competition is, what is classical Chinese dance? Judges last year came down clearly against forms inspired by martial arts and Beijing opera, and there seems to be an overwhelming emphasis on moral and spiritual aspects that are not easily quantifiable.

In a report by the judges of the 2007 event, also published in the Epoch Times, the main quality that distinguishes Chinese dance is “lingering appeal” (韻味). The panel stated: “This is part of an interpretation of a cultural heritage that has been passed down since ancient times. When lifting the arm or in raising the leg, your whole body should convey a sense of Chineseness. In dance, this should be more so. ... [Dancers] should reveal the purity of Chinese dance, without any taint of impurity. They should preserve only what is pure. The competition will allow people to see the real purity within Chinese dance.”

To get an eyeful of Chinese purity, head down to the Yuanlin Performance Center, at 99, Ln 2, Chungcheng Rd, Yuanlin Township, Changhua County (彰化縣員林鎮中正路2巷99號) at 2pm. Tickets are NT$500 and are available through ERA ticketing.

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