Chinese Folk Dances: Lion, Peacock And Dragon Dance
Folk dance, also called country dance, origins from people’s labor life and reflects the cultural tradition, life style and customs of locals.
Dance is an essential part in every human culture. It is an artistic form of non-verbal communication classified into different types accordingly by their specific purposes. It reflects the identity of a culture and the inner state of mind. Different forms of dance start to exist with the change of time. Each form has their own significance according to the age they belong. Folk dance is a form of dance participated in by everyday people at weddings, parties, rituals etc.
Chinese folk dances reach back into ancient times, rooted strongly in China’s culture and history. From festival celebrations to ritualistic and religious ceremonies, the Chinese have cultivated a folk dance for many different times in life. A good number of these survive today, and are still being performed in China and around the world.
Festival and Seasonal Dances
The most prominent feature of the Chinese folk dances is their folkloric character. To enable the readers to clearly understand these Chinese folk dances, we, according to the angle of folklore, have classified self-entertainment, sociality and choosing spouses, physical exercises and technical sports, dancing for a living, etc.; Festival and Seasonal Dances, Ritual Dances such as those happening at child-bearing rituals, adult rituals, weddings, birthday celebrations, funerals, sacrificial rituals, military practices, etc.; Belief Dances such as those done at the rituals of the Taoism,Buddhism, Islamism, primitive religions, spiritual belief activities among common folks; and Working-based Dances.
The Chinese folk dances have formed a complicated phenomenon of multi-function and multi-culture mixing with each other during their long spreading and evolutionary process, thus leading to a diverse situation. Therefore, the following dances are classifies according to their major characters for the purpose of exposing their cultural meanings more properly.
The Peacock Dance is a popular Chinese folk dance and it is the most typical dance of Dai nationality. The dancer mainly imitates the peacock’s actions such as strolling, spreading its tail, quivering the wings or even flying. This Chinese folk dance requires extreme body flexibility of dancers and also graceful posture, especially the gesture from shoulder to fingers. Due to the natural conditions, many peacocks live in the Dai ethnic area in Yunnan, and local people regard peacocks as the symbol of beauty, wisdom and prosperity. Thus, the Chinese folk dance that imitates peacocks shows people’s desire for a good representation of the peacock. The most famous peacock dance is called “Soul of Peacock”, which was firstly and frequently performed by the globally well-known dancer Yang Liping. It is not only a Chinese folk dance performance, but more of a deep understanding of the relationship between human and nature, and is also an expression of adoration for nature.
Dragon dance is performed as an auspicious and traditional program during festivals, congratulations, exorcising, sacrifice ceremony temple fair and so on. The reason for this is dragon is the totem for Chinese nation for centuries and Chinese people take dragon as an auspicious animal for bringing rain and avoiding disasters. “Descendant of the Dragon” is a sign for Chinese people for thousands of years.
In the dance, a term of dancers hold poles on the dragon, which is an image of the Chinese dragon, and the leaders left, dip, thrust and sweep its head. Sometimes, the dancers may rig to belch smock and fire from a pyrotechnic device. The whole team imitates the movements of a dragon in sinuous, undulating, jumping postures to show Chinese dragon’s power and dignity. Dragon dance is on the top of program list during Chinese holiday and it is mainly used as a program in Chinese Spring Festival.
The Lion dance is a popular Chinese folk dance and is one of the earliest Chinese folk dances. The Lion Dance is usually performed at festivals or special occasions, and involvers dancers imitating the movement of a lion in a delicately decorated lion costume. Most of the time, this typical Chinese folk dance is performed by one or two people that operate one lion, or several groups operating several lions. The front performer and sometimes the only performer of a lion mainly controls the head, jaw, and eyes, while the back performer controls the back half of the lion. There are quite a few performance features such as jumping between the platforms of different heights and using stage equipment such as firecrackers, drums, etc. The Lion Dance is also frequently performed at the Spring Festival to celebrate or welcome the wonderful New Year and this traditional Chinese folk dance expresses happiness, blessing, and good will for luck.