Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chinese Dance Photo Exhibition And Showcase

My Chap Goh May and Valentine's Day 2014 Posting:

A rare occurrence indeed this year when February 14th, Valentine's Day, coincides with Chap Goh Mei where lovers in Singapore and elsewhere shower each other with rose petals, chocolates and perfume.  Girls don't forget to throw your tangerines (Mandarin oranges) into our rivers to allow someone special to fish it out.

 According to a news report about 240 couples are getting their marriages solemnised in Singapore on the 14th February, 2014, more than the average of 35 to 50 in a day.  Roses will cost more since there is a shortage this year. All in fun and games. Why give them when tangerines are in abundant supply :-)


Witness to a sophisticated Chinese Dance Photo Exhibition and Showcase at JCube, Jurong, during this Chinese New Year period resulted in my talking to Edmund Quek, a bright-eyed young dance enthusiast and member of this particular troupe.  He was one of those supervising the show who emailed me all details, quick as a wink, after I haunted him with questions that could have stumped many dance experts. The article below shows how well versed he is with the subject. 

Thanks very much Edmund for allowing us this insight about Chinese dance (article below) and the rest of the dancers and organisers for the excellent performance and photographs on display at the venue that afternoon.

(Dancers whose names and photos I read on the red-packet covers include; Li Ruimin, Serene Tan, Chia Zhi Wen, Vivien Lai and Alvan Lim.  There were more than a dozen dancers that I met that day. The dance photographer was Tan Ngiap Heng. I thank them all.)

Roses, Music and Dance = Valentine/Chap Goh May 2014.
About Music and Dance Influence from China:

1) How are the dances related to the accompanying melodies ( in terms of themes like Provinces in China, Springtime, Weddings, Young Love, etc)?

The accompanying melodies are usually closely related to the dances because each dance has a distinct character/theme and the music used also has to fall along the same lines; the music used usually reflects, complements, or accentuates the mood and/or progression of the dance.

 2) Can you provide information not found on your website regarding the music and dances by the group?

There are mainly two broad categories of Chinese dance: classical and ethnic-folk. Ethnic-folk dance is further divided into 56 key minorities. Each minority is then made up of several or a host of different tribes. Out of these 56 minorities, four feature the most prominently: Dai, Uighur, Tibetan, and Mongolian. 

Traditionally, classical dances were the kind of dances which were meant to be brought before the Emperor/nobility/privileged etc. The purpose of these dances was mainly as entertainment and much emphasis was placed on the aesthetics of the dance. Common props used included fans, long sleeves, silk streamers, etc. Instruments commonly used for classical dance include standard Chinese wind and string instruments. 

For ethnic folk dances, the content tends to revolve around and reflect the specific lifestyles/practices/rituals/activities surrounding that ethnic minority. Hence, it is more communal and less elite. In terms of music, dances from one minority usually only uses music from its own minority group. The music from each minority is distinct, although sometimes not altogether different from, other minority groups. A lot of ethnic folk music also incorporates singing as it was common for the people in the tribe to sing and dance at the same time while going about their daily activities. Each ethnic minority do have their musical instrument/arrangement preference and some have instruments unique to their minority. 

In contemporary times, themes touched upon in both kind of dances are usually broader and more complex in nature, including but not limited to: people's inner emotions, desires and struggles, interpersonal relationships, social issues and phenomena, history, the natural environment, natural disasters and so on. 

 3) Does this troupe only perform Hokkien dance and music?

 No. The Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan is actually committed to promoting Chinese Cultural Arts as a whole. The dances and music which we use are from the categories mentioned above, i.e. classical or ethnic-folk. Dialects groups are categorised differently and hence do not feature.

4) Is there any information that is relevant to this blog's theme on music?

 I have included some music samples of the 4 most prominent ethnic-folk minorities and some trivia of that minority which you can use freely. Like I mentioned above, the music and dance in these minorities reflect very strongly the type of people and culture that they have. Hopefully, you will be able to see a connection between the people and their music. Additionally, I have attached one classical dance music.

Classical dance music: Elegance.

Mongolian: The Mongolian ethnic minority live in the vast steppes and grasslands of China. They are nomadic and traverse the landscape with herds of livestock under the bare sky. For them, the horizon really is the limit; because of this, and their cultural history, they possess a certain brazenness and have been known to take whatever they please when riding through each other’s territories.                                                        

Mongolian music: Freedom of the grasslands.

Tibetian: In sharp contrast to the Mongolians, the Tibetan ethnic minority live high up in the mountains where the cold climate dictates many of their habits. They worship the sun and wear many layers of thick clothing. They usually look very heavy-set because of all that clothing and the harsh weather conditions has made them a serious people.

Tibetan music: The people closest to the sun.

Dai: The Dai mostly reside in the Yunan province of China and have ancestry relating to the Thai and Lao people. It is often said that women of Yunan are the most mesmerising and a phrase that is commonly heard is that "Dai women are like water" – meaning they flow beautifully, I guess? The Dai place great emphasis on nature, beauty in nature and just beauty in general. For them, the peacock is regarded as the most graceful of animals.

 Dai music: Peacocks in flight.

Uighur: While the Dai are known for their beautiful women, the Uighur are known for their m en. In the Uighur culture, any young male of age is automatically termed ‘Balang.’ In their language, Balang refers to an energetic, charismatic, almost Casanova-like young man. Uighur culture draws influences from Arabic and middle-eastern cultures.

 Uighur music: Balang.

Because of problems with my computer I am unable to download music and clear pictures of the troupe. Excuse the poor formatting and typo errors.

A Happy Valentine's Day and Chap Goh May To All My Readers.

Images and Article from Edmund Quek. Copyrights Reserved.

Information about our major production at the end of this month:
A 60-minute production using purely Chinese dance to depict the classic Chinese tale of "The Peony Pavilion."

Title: Dance Drama: "A Startling Dream."
Date/Time: 22 Feb 2014, 8pm.
Venue: Kallang Theatre.
Tickets: $68, $48, $38, $28, from SISTIC
(30% off for students, senior citizens, NSFs. 10% off for PassionCard and MasterCard holders).

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