On December 6, 2017, William & Mary Confucius Institute was honored to host a Chinese Folk Dance Gala by the student art troupe of Minzu University of China. Travelling all the way from Beijing, China, Minzu University is the top university in China for ethnic minorities and admits students from all 56 ethnic groups. Since 92% of Chinese people are of the Han ethnicity, Minzu University is an important source of promoting ethnic diversity in higher education and throughout China.
The performances by the student art troupe were amazing! In performances including songs, group dances, and traditional musical pieces, the art troupe gave the audience, no matter how familiar they were with Chinese culture, a unique insight into the art of a few of China’s minority groups. Featuring performances traditional to the Uyghur, Mongolian, Tibetan, Dai, Miao, Yi, Hani, and Chinese-Korean ethnic groups, the performers wore traditional ethnic clothing which showcased the unique style of each minority group. Dances included “Galloping,” a Mongolian male group dance in which the stomping of the performers inspired the imagery and sound of hundreds of running horses, “Splendid China,” a group dance featuring many different minority dance styles to showcase China’s ethnic diversity, and “The Cradle atop the Yak,” a Tibetan dance performed by a woman and two men which emphasizes the relationship between man and nature and invoked thoughts of yak carrying and protecting a child.
The Yi ethnic dance “Colorful Clouds,” the same dance featured on the cover of the brochure and the flyer, featured three female performers wearing a piece of clothing that is part raincoat, part cloak known as a Pi Zhan. As the dancers spun in place, the Pi Zhan whipped around them, resembling a whirlwind of color. The folk song “Bird Ballad” from the Chinese-Korean ethnic group did indeed sound like a bird singing in the crowded auditorium; it is said that each singer’s rendition of the song is unique. The sihu and the bamboo flute, two traditional Chinese instruments were showcased in “The Young Herdsman” and “A Mongolian Pastoral Song” respectively, with the musicians demonstrating exceptional skill and passion.
Over 200 people attended the Chinese Folk Dance Gala. WMCI is grateful to the performers and teachers from Minzu University as well as all of the William & Mary and Williamsburg community members who came to show their support and experience this unique piece of Chinese culture.