Gen-Z director amazes world with ancient dancing show, pledges to be cultural promoter
Published: Apr 29, 2022 02:57 PM

Photo: Dance show Luo Shen Shui Fu, or
Photo: Dance show Luo Shen Shui Fu, or "Pray."

Editors Note:

China's first white paper published recently on its youth describes its young generation as confident, aspirant and responsible. According to the document, Chinese youth possess a global vision and stand at the forefront of the times bursting with commitment: pursuing lofty ideals with a firm belief in socialism with Chinese characteristics.Young people are also described in the paper as full of patriotism, displaying the sterling quality of living up to responsibilities and striving to be contributors to the country's development.

Wednesday marks the national Youth Day, which falls on May 4 to honor the patriotic youth movement - the 1919 May Fourth Movement that began 103 years ago. On this special occasion which also marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Youth League of China, the Global Times presents a series of stories about four prominent figures of the young generation, who were nourished in great times with ample opportunities and have been sparing no efforts in promoting Guochao, also known as Chinese trends or "China chic", to the international stage. Looking ahead to the new era, their stories fully showcase that youth is the most active and vital force in society and the hopes of a country and the future of a nation lie in their hands. This is the first part of the series in which we would like to introduce you a young director who impressed the world with amazing ancient dances. The rest stories areYoung designer aims to show pride, passion Chinas homemade aircraft carrier Shandong brings, and Young Chinese culture promoter presents traditional handicrafts to Oxford Uni and Milan Fashion Week.

Photo: Dance show Tang Gong Ye Yan (Night Banquet in Tang Dynasty Palace)
Photo: Dance show Tang Gong Ye Yan (Night Banquet in Tang Dynasty Palace)

A beautiful Chinese story to tell

Fourteen dancers in baggy Tang-style silk dresses and crescent-shaped makeup lined on stage with exaggerated facial expressions and jocular motions. Suddenly, they were surrounded by antiques such as the tri-colored glazed potteries or bronze wares, and the next second, they were strolling into the ancient masterpieces of Ten Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains.

Like in a dream, audiences travelled back with the dancers to the prosperous Tang Dynasty (618-907), a golden age in Chinese history iconed with poets, wines, and camel bells.

The magic-like dance program, namely Tang Gong Ye Yan (Night Banquet in Tang Dynasty Palace), was released in the Spring Festival gala of 2021 broadcast by Henan TV. It became a hit immediately, enlightened people's passion toward the beauty of traditional culture, and consequently also spread overseas, appreciated by culture lovers around the world.

The dance has become a representation of guochao, or Chinese trends or "China chic," which expresses the rise of China's native fashion trends. With the growing popularity of Chinese trends, more young people are paying attention to traditional Chinese art and literature, including ancient musical instruments, dancing and clothes.

A group of artists, especially those born in the Generation Z, have begun to try to demonstrate traditional Chinese culture in innovative ways.

One of the pioneers is Chen Lei, director of the gala. In his opinion, the dance is a combination of rich treasures of China's traditional culture and modern technologies, fashions and aesthetic.

Photo: Chen Lei, director of Henan TV
Photo: Chen Lei, director of Henan TV

He told the Global Times that nowadays, young people have become the successor and promoters of traditional culture, and these excellent works embued with shared human values could make the world better understand China's values and cultural power.

"Beauty comes from creativity." Hua Chunying, spokesperson of China's Foreign Ministry, said while promoting the video clip of Tang Gong Ye Yan on Twitter.

The dance, along with other similar programs made by Henan TV, has captured the hearts of many people in China and around the world.

"There is no need to deliberately induce tears, the essence of the culture itself will move the audience," a Chinese netizen commented on Bilibili, on which the video clip of the dance garnered almost 8 million views.

"We wanted Tang Gong Ye Yan to be able to deliver some beautiful, encouraging and heart-warming emotions," Chen said.

The show presents the process of a group of female musicians from making preparations to performing at a banquet in Tang Dynasty. It breaks the stereotype of lyric atmosphere of Chinese classic dance and offers an amusing and real-life sense.

Modern digital technology such as 3D and AR was used to produce a combination of virtual scene on real stage. Nifty dance moves of actresses and the display of national treasures have all made the show impressive.

Another trending dance of Henan TV, Luo Shen Shui Fu, or "Pray," which was released during the Dragon Boat Festival in June 2021 and was shot underwater, also won tons of praise on social media.

The story paid tribute to the famous ancient Chinese painting and poem "Ode to the Goddess of the Luo River" and told the story of a woman who was drowned in a river and became a goddess.

"This is simply graceful, fluid, powerful and mind blowing. Truly amazing artistry," commented a YouTube user.

Talking about how to take good use of the traditional culture while avoid making them tacky or cliché, Chen said this is the difficulty during production.

"First of all we need to change our mindset. When producing the show, I was not thinking about the director but the audience," he said. "We want to share our culture to the audience, making them understand, telling them the story."

To Chen's surprise, these shows have stirred a wave across the nation of Chinese traditional culture promotion, as the Chinese public feels more confident about its culture and are inspired to introduce their traditions and unique values to the outside world.

The director attributes the popularity of his shows to the present great times, as flourishing ages nurture true talent.

The Chinese nation has achieved a tremendous transformation from obtaining independence and becoming prosperous to growing in strength, and the current new era bestows prosperity and hope. Living in the best times in Chinese history, the current young generation enjoys an enabling environment for development, a broad space to grow, and wonderful opportunities to make a good career.

Standing at a new historical starting point and embarking on a new journey in achieving the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, "the rising cultural phenomenon makes me believe China's youth will have more precious opportunities to realize their ambitions and display their talents," Chen said.

In his speech addressing a ceremony celebrating the CPC centenary on July 1, 2021, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, emphasized that "In the new era, our young people should make it their mission to contribute to national rejuvenation and aspire to become more proud, confident, and assured in their identity as Chinese, so that they can live up to the promise of their youth and the expectations of our times, our Party, and our people."

"When we feel a strong sense of identity toward our country and become more confident in the international world, we feel a stronger sense of responsibility and mission as a cultural inheritor, participant and promoter," Chen said.

Carrying the mission, Chen and his team are gearing up to promote more traditional cultural elements to the world and the next fantastic topics are Chinese solar terms, traditional calendar events, and ancient inventions.

"Warmth and confidence," this is also what China's young generation want to convey to the pandemic-plagued world, he said.