The Beijing Normal University Dance Department came to William & Mary from October 4th- 7th for an unforgettable weekend of artistry and intercultural exchange. BNU students attended several workshops, and on Saturday, October 6th, performed Confluence: A Performance of Traditional and Modern Chinese Dance to a full house at Sadler Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium.
The students’ dedication to their art was plain to see in their hard work both on and off stage, as is to be expected of BNU’s student dance troupe. After all, they generally practice for around six to eight hours a day.
The workshops proved to be a great experience for intercultural learning between the BNU Dance Department and our Dance Program here at William & Mary. The first workshop, Works in Progress, was held on Friday morning and led by Professors Denise Wade and Leah Glenn of the William & Mary Dance Program. BNU students were given a general introduction to the Dance Program here at the College, and also got to see pieces created by our professors, as performed by both students and professionals.
The next two workshops were held On Saturday Morning. The first was a Classical Chinese Fan Dance Workshop presented by BNU, and the second was a Modern Dance Workshop presented by William & Mary. One of the BNU students remarked that the William & Mary students were fast learners. These workshops were a unique opportunity for students from both universities to work with one another and experience dance across cultures.
Saturday night’s performance of Confluence: A Performance of Traditional and Modern Chinese Dance was nothing short of enchanting. The audience was captivated from the opening piece, “Landscape Painting,” in which the student’s careful motions and flowing costumes painted a picture of what it is like for individuals to observe the beauty of life around us. The following piece, “Shadows from the Wind” was a solo piece featuring beautiful, fluid motions, and was then followed by a complete shift in tone with the lively and energetic piece “Wukong: Enlightenment in Nothingness.” There were points in this concert where I myself was hoping that these captivating dance pieces would not end. Pieces like “Cultivation” and “Slender Waist” were fascinating in that they tied in aspects of Chinese history and traditional philosophy. “Slender Waist,” in fact, carried influences from the ancient Kingdom of Chu, which existed during the Warring States Period (722-221 BC) in modern day Hunan Province. The dances were, in many ways, a reflection on life and the world around us. “Dance of Youth,” with the performers’ bright costumes and flowing movements, pondered youth in its role as the springtime of life, while the piece “Return to the Prairie” depicted natural images like wind on an open field. The performance, overall, was nothing short of poetry in motion.
Following this unforgettable performance, we hosted a reception for the students and faculty of the William & Mary and BNU dance departments. We were honored to host an exchange with such dedicated performers, and we are incredibly grateful to the faculty, staff, students, and community members who participated and made this incredible exchange possible.