The “ChunHuaQiuShi 春华秋实” performance week held by the National Center of Performing Arts (NCPA) selects art pieces from colleges and universities across China. This year, they added a cosmopolitan flare to the event by inviting Brigham Yong University (BYU) to participate.
The performance of BYU aroused so many emotions in me. Stephen M. Jones, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications at BYU said it best: “The “ChunHuaQiuShi” (春华秋实) Festival celebrates the educational growth of arts students as they progress from the flowers of the spring to the fruit of the fall. We recognize as well the abundant success of the students at this festival who come from the finest educational institutions across China. These excellent institutions are committed to the success of their students. In this goal, we are united. We hope all of these student participants will use their gifts to express to the world their conviction that beauty and goodness will always overcome the challenges and difficulties of life, and that through our work together we can preserve the best fruits of our cultures and societies for future generations. May our love for the arts and our hope for the progress of our young people join our hearts in eternal friendship.”
“Love”, “beauty”, “harmony”, and “friendship”, these concepts appeared frequently in the performance tonight, and kept us viscerally and emotionally engaged throughout. Everyone in the audience was deeply touched by the special dance piece “When We Encounter”, which was co-choreographed and co-performed by Brigham Young University (BYU) and the Beijing Dance Academy (BDA). In this piece, Chinese students wear yellow and orange color costumes, representing the East. American students wear blue costumes, representing the West. Over the course of the dance, they expressed the entire process of “encounter” – from strangers to friends, from reluctance to acceptance, until lasting harmony is achieved. The students’ performance was genuine, pristine and moved the audience to tears. Take a moment to think about how enormous this world is, how diverse all the nationalities are, and how complicated people can be. Humans have been experiencing too much suffering and disaster merely because we do not fully understand others who are not like us. But as a race, we have never abandoned the ideals of peace and unity. A better, more harmonious world has always been the common aspiration of all people.
If there are no encounters, then you are still you, and I am still I. Only when we encounter, do I know who you are, and do you know who I am. If there are no encounters, then we simply know that we are far apart. Only when we encounter, can we come to understand how close our hearts are, and how deep our love for each other can be. If there are no encounters, then we have just the feelings of fear and loneliness. Only when we encounter, can we embrace warmth and trust. Only when we encounter, are we able to resolve conflict and disagreement. Only when we encounter, are we able to find each other, and help each other.
To dance together is to share the same destiny. Tonight, we encounter. Tonight, we are bound forever by a dream of peace and understanding.
The dance performances tonight invited us to see happiness with a sense of humor, which has long been absent from our stage. Those dance pieces, whether retro tap dance from small town USA or clogging from the mountainous region, brought us funky, funny, and enthusiastic passion for life. Dance should bring happiness to people. I’m not sure when this began, but there has been a shift in dance toward the increasingly serious. But tonight, the joy of dance is back, and it travelled all the way from the other side of the world to join us.
A sense of humor has a pleasant feature that can melt away bitterness. It provides comfort and enjoyment. In China, we have so many art forms that play such a role. Each art form is filled with the potential for humor. In fact, the history of the Chinese is a history replete with the wisdom and insights of humor.We all know that “sense of humor” is an invaluable part of our daily life. The sense of humor of a culture can be a barometer of progress in the development of that civilization. Mr. Lin Yu Tang, a famous Chinese writer (1895-1976) has said that: “Humor belongs to people with great wisdom. Those who possess great wisdom are not only able to confront many obstacles with grace, they are also able to perceive the humor in all things”. A similar sentiment is expressed by the famous Russian writer, Anton Chekhov. He says: “a person without sense of humor is hopeless”. Other scholars have extended this meaning by saying that a nation without sense of humor is one that is out of vitality and magnetism.
We dancers might have forgotten the ancient teachings of humor in Chinese culture or stored that memory in long-forgotten recesses of our mind. It has been too long since we remembered the taste of happiness and joy that dance can bring. Let us come back to it. Let us feed our body and minds with the nutrient of humor, and enjoy it to its full magnitude. Let us forget, in our mirth, all disagreements, biases, and misgivings. Let our renewed sense of humor bring us more pleasure and happiness, especially toward our spiritual fulfillment…