Young Chinese dancer chases dream by personalizing the beauty of ancient painting
Published: Dec 29, 2022 10:56 PM Updated: Dec 29, 2022 10:48 PM
Meng Qingyang during performance Photo: Courtesy of Meng

Meng Qingyang during performance Photo: Courtesy of Meng

Editor's Note:

A decade ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, put forward the Chinese Dream which envisages the brilliant future of the Chinese nation. The Chinese Dream is about pursuing the strength of the country, rejuvenation of the nation, and people's happiness.

Over the decade under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi at the core, Chinese people have made unremitting efforts and taken great strides toward realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation while enjoying tangible benefits from a prosperous and fast-growing country.

In this series which tries to unpack the concept of the Chinese Dream through specific stories and anecdotes, the Global Times reporters talked to ordinary Chinese citizens - an aerospace engineer participating in the launch of China's first space station, a grassroots official dedicated to rural revitalization, an environmental warrior combating desertification in the Gobi desert, an artist promoting traditional Chinese culture, as well as a worker at a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project overseas - to see how the Chinese Dream inspires the nation and the world.

This last installment of the series focuses on how the Chinese Dream has brought Chinese art and culture to the world.

Twenty years ago, a 9-year-old girl insisted on going to Beijing for pursuing her dancing dream. She did not know what pursuing dance would bring her, but only took on the challenge with her full passion and love for dance.

Driven by her dancing dream, Meng Qingyang was successfully admitted to the major of classical Chinese dance at the well-known Beijing Dance Academy - the highest dance education institution in China - at the age of 16, and was enrolled as a dancer by the famed China Oriental Performing Arts Group at the age of 20.

While chasing her dream, the young artist encountered luck as well as unimaginable difficulties. But because of the dream, she would return to the stage again and again and express herself through her elegant and graceful dance.

"Dancing is not only my career, but has become a moving meditation in my life. I forget all my trouble and become fully immersed in joy when dancing on the stage under the spotlight," Meng told the Global Times.

"While chasing your dreams, you should be fearless. Please get up again after falling, and continue to run toward that beam of light," she advised other young dreamers like her. Meng's inspirational story interprets the dream of Chinese cultural confidence, and encourages many young Chinese people to pursue their dreams.

Dancing on the stage of CCTV's Chinese Lunar New Year Gala is certainly the dream of many dancers including Meng. In 2015, she was cast as the lead dancer in two dance performances in the gala feast. Happiness, excitement, and nervousness engulfed her simultaneously, and she made a promise to herself: "I will show them that I can do it well!"

After rehearsing day and night and even suffering from a ligament strain, Meng delivered a flawless performance.

"Whenever I wanted to give up, I would ask myself: 'Is dancing the source of my happiness? If yes, then keep dancing,'" Meng said.

In 2021, she once again appeared on the Chinese Lunar New Year Gala stage as the lead dancer in the famous song "Jasmine".

Meet 'Green'

In 2022 when she turned 30, Meng landed the role of "Green" which made her an overnight sensation at the 2022 Chinese Lunar New Year Gala.

Inspired by one of the best-known classical Chinese paintings - A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains by Wang Ximeng, an artist who lived during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the Poetic Dance: The Journey of a Legendary Landscape Painting was challenging to Meng as the role "Green" is an abstract one.

"The difficulties of my previous roles are usually dance movements and techniques, but this time, the challenge was the dimensions of the role," Meng recalled that the process from casting to performance was one fraught with difficulty. "I broke down a couple of times. But it was okay; I cried and afterward I would pick myself up and continue feeling the role and practicing." This later contributed to the show's signature move - bending backward until the dancers' torsos were parallel to the ground.

The show is aimed to display the beauty of their crafts and is comprised of a number of parts including "scroll unfolding, seal script asking, silk singing, stone search, penmanship practice, ink milling, and drawing." Dancers need to learn how to perform crafts including the art of seal engraving, making writing brushes, and silk weaving.

Meng recalled that for five months, almost every day from 9 am to 9 pm, in addition to training in the dance studio, she was expected to learn about and understand Song Dynasty literature and painting, and would also go to the Palace Museum to study related exhibitions. She gave up all other activities, and only concentrated on the shaping and learning of the role.

Before each performance, Meng would put on her makeup and shut herself in the dressing room to find tranquility. One day, she suddenly found the connection to the role, which was a delicate state with both the detachment of the painting spirit and human emotions.

"There is a sense of alienation between this character and the audience. When she [Green] is on stage, she doesn't need to pay attention to how many audiences are at the spot… I understood why 'Green' was lonely for thousands of years..."

The dance piece is now touring nationwide, with more than 200 shows in about 40 Chinese cities. The most grueling part for Meng will likely be around the 2022 New Year when she will be performing two shows per day in the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Apart from a lack of sleep, she will have no time to spend with friends and family during this time, but appreciation in the form of applause from the audience and her adoring fans go some way to repaying her efforts.

Poetic Dance: The Journey of a Legendary Landscape Painting has been a successful expression in the China chic trend in 2022, and triggered a lot of hot topics in rejuvenating traditional Chinese culture on Chinese social media.

Meng said the popularity of the show stems from the pursuit of the beauty of traditional Chinese culture in the hearts of every Chinese person. "I think this pursuit is one of our Chinese dreams, and this affinity surging within us is due to our ancestors' gifts to us future generations."

"I think that at 30 I am just hitting my stride. Everything is as it should be," Meng said, stating that she will continue to be a good cultural communicator and plans to go abroad with the troupe when the pandemic situation eases and show the beauty of traditional Chinese culture to more people in the world.