Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Art of Ethnic Chinese Dance ~ Luo Yi

Luo Yi in ceremonial costume.

Shan: You have done some interesting work with Guilin Chinese cultural dance. How did you get started as a dancer?

Luo Yi: My father had a musical background and played the erhu, the two stringed bamboo Chinese instrument played with a bow.  His company sponsored a big Chinese Spring Festival every year and I got to observe and at the age of six began to participate in rehearsals, including dance and musical performances.  Early on I was taught the stretching exercises and dance moves.  At 10, I learned to play the accordion.  I was chosen to attend a special school with a traveling college group that focused my studies on dance for six months. Then I spent the next three years performing in schools for assemblies and festivals in Guangxi and Hunnan Provinces not far from my hometown of Guilin.   Later, I received a scholarship to major in Music and Dance at the University for the Arts of Guangxi in Nanning, China. After graduation, I began teaching in schools and colleges for 20 years while also receiving my Masters degree in classical piano, voice, and dance instruction. 

Rehearsing in her studio.

Traditional Tai Chi Fan Dance.

Luo Yi and her sister Luo Li performing with other children.

Playing the two-string erhu at a tea house on the        Li River.

Photos compliments of Luo Yi.

Yi traditional costume.


Shan: Can you share some of the details of how you preserve the historic significance of this kind of dance?

Luo Yi: Guilin is in an area of China where many minority cultures live and have maintained their folk dances and costumes.  Almost 97% of the Chinese are of the Han majority.  I studied their traditional dances but mostly the local cultures of my own Yao ancestry and those of the Miao, the Zhuang, the Dong and Yi peoples.  Then later studied the Uygur, Dai, Tibetan and Chinese Korean.  I spent hours and hours designing and making costumes for myself and dance troupes that I have choreographed.  The history of China was of special interest to me and I was especially influenced by ancient classical dances of the Han Dynasty [200 B.C.] and Tang Dynasties [663 A.D.]  

With students in minority dance performance.

5th Century Dance performance.
Luo Yi is preparing a special program for Chinese New Year.  Year of the Dragon begins January 23rd. It is believed to be one of the most auspicious years in the Chinese calendar.
Shan: What was your most memorable experience?

Luo Yi: My most memorable moment was in 2003, when I sent some pictures of myself in dance costumes to my new artist friend Thom in America.  He then wanted to come to China to meet me and my family, see me dance, and observe me teaching my students. He came to China twice before my daughter and I came to visit him in America. We have now been married six years.

After only three days in America, I got a call to help choreograph dances for the local Chinese New Year and Spring Festival at the University of Oklahoma. I continue to work with dance students for events and pageants and teach summer classes for the Confucius Institute in Norman, Oklahoma, where I make my home with my husband Thom Renbarger. 

More about ancient Chinese costumes.

A fascinating link to ancient Chinese Ethnic Groups with photos of people and their costumes by Chen Haiwen in his "Family Portrait" series of the minority peoples of China:

China’s 56 Minority Ethnic groups include the following. 

    Achang Family
    Bai Family
    Blang Family
    Bonan Family
    Bouyei Family
    Dai Family
    Daur Family
    De'ang Family
    Derung Family
    Dong Family
    Dongxiang Family
    Ewenki Family
    Gelao Family
    Han Family
    Hani Family
    Hezhen Family
    Hui Family
    Jing Family
    Jingpo Family

    Jino Family
    Kazak Family
    Kirgiz Family
    Korean Family
    Lahu Family
    Lhoba Family
    Li Family
    Lisu Family
    Manchu Family
    Maonan Family
    Miao Family
    Monba Family
    Mongol Family
    Mulam Family
    Naxi Family
    Nu Family
    Oroqen Family
    Ozbek Family
    Pumi Family

    Qiang Family
    Russian Family
    Salar Family
    She Family
    Sui Family
    Taiwan Family
    Tajik Family
    Tatar Family
    Tibetan Family
    Tu Family
    Tujia Family
    Uygur Family
    Va Family
    Xibe Family
    Yao Family
    Yi Family
    Yugur Family
    Zhuang Family

Shän Boggs is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. Her interests include science, technology, the environment, health, education, multimedia, art, and gourmet cooking. She is the author of a cookbook series for people with food allergies.

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