Friday, October 12, 2012

Nai-Ni Chen Troupe presents Chinese dance program

Nai-Ni Chen Troupe presents Chinese dance program

by John Koster
October 3, 2012 

Ridgewood residents who took time away from the street fair and the beautiful weather to visit the Ridgewood Library were glad they saw Nai-Ni Chen’s Dance Company perform exquisite samples of Chinese dances to a good-sized audience at the auditorium. The audience was instantly impressed by the beauty of the performance and costumes.

Dance soloist Ying Shi of Beijing captivated the audience with the classical Chinese Ribbon Dance. She used two colorful scarves and graceful gestures and facial expressions to take the audience through both happy and stormy emotions in pantomime as the scarves became arching rainbows, simmering waves, and -- in Ying Shi’s skilled hands -- spirals and enveloping helixes. 

Yao Zhong Zhang from Shanghai strode forth in fierce warrior makeup for a bold performance of the Long Spear Dance, a combination of ballet and the martial arts. He radiated strength and gymnastic skill, performing leaps and spins with his spear while clad in an archaic warrior costume and headdress.

Shi then returned with the Water Lily Dance. Nai-Ni Chen, the award-winning troupe leader, explained that, in Chinese allusion, a water lily can stand for a lovely girl. Shi began her dance as a mundane flat yellow-green lily pad from a pond, but emerged as a glorious pink blossom and took the responsive audience through a day in the life of a gorgeous water lily from dawn to dusk. The recorded dance music was punctuated with amusing drips and gurgles that suggested the pond life around the lily. 

Besides acting as narrator, Chen ultimately opened up the stage to a dozen pre-teen volunteers who wanted to learn something about how the dances were done.
First Chen taught the adults and children about the hand gestures: the “orchid hand” for girls means touching the pinkie and thumb while the three middle fingers remain separate and the wrist rotates. The “tiger hand” for boys means holding all four fingers together straight out with the thumb perpendicular. The real fun for the youngsters came when they climbed onto stage and learned, watching the taut, muscular Zhang how to swirl the ribbons into the rainbow, the ocean wave, and the waterfall.

“We got 90 people out, despite all the conflicts,” said Ridgewood Library Business Manager Toni Mathes. “People loved them, and I thought it was a great way to reflect the diverse cultures of Ridgewood.” About half the audience was of European ancestry, and the other half was Asian. Applause was warm and sustained.

Chen is an internationally known dancer and choreographer who began her career at the Cloud Gate Theater in Taiwan. She holds a master’s degree from New York University, and has performed all over the Eurasian continent.
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