Capturing the Way-dau This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   What is it that stirs humans into rapid movement?What is it that inspires us to move as "leaves in awind?"

Dancing has historically played a significant role in manyaspects of life. Used in worship, the Shakers whirled their bodies with all theirenergy to "shake out the Devil" in the nineteenth century. Beforebattle, New Guinea tribes would muster the community and perform war dances formotivation. In celebration of Flora, goddess of spring, the Romans danced aroundan ornate maypole every May first.

I do not dance for religious purposes.I do not dance in preparation for war. I do not dance in celebration of thegoddess of spring. I do, however, share one belief in common with the Shakers,the warriors and the Romans. We dance because we believe that when we do, wepossess the power to affect others.

Thus the question arises - what isthe most effective way to communicate? In writing, the search for that perfectword is called the art of diction. In dancing, it is simply the search for theperfect expression, hand motion or posture to captivate the audience's minds, toformulate interpretations of what they see.

This is what I am constantlystriving for in rehearsals and on the stage. The type of dance I do is Chinesecultural dance. Because most of these dances relate to myths, fairy tales andceremonies, it is essential that I correctly portray the essence of the story mybody is telling as it has been told for centuries. Asian dancing depends onperfecting existing theatrical dance forms rather than creating new styles.Because China is a large country with 7,000 years of history and hundreds ofpeoples, there are thousands of dances.

When I receive my newest danceassignment, my teacher, Mrs. Ma, introduces the dance and provides me withbackground information. I first speculate about the purpose of the dance and whothe characters are. Then I begin to train my body to portray effectively myvision to the audience. When this is achieved, I have attained the way-dau, theflavor, of the dance.

When I dance the sewing dance, I embody a Chineselady of the royal court in the Tang dynasty. I am embroidering a cloth for mypotential suitor. My naive smile shows I am a dreamer. I stand not erect andproud, but relaxed and humble. Everywhere I look, my eyes shine because I see avision of my future, my husband.

When I dance the Mongolian chopstickdance, I become a tough mountain dweller who has learned how to "swallowbitterness" - I am unshaken, as you can see by my arched back and chestfacing the sun. I wear a constant, slight smile, representing the contentment Ihave found in my simple tribal life.

When I dance the role of the ChineseJuliet who met her Romeo in heaven after she smashed her head on her lover'stombstone, I become that star-crossed lover who has achieved happiness in theafterlife. I rejoice because the pain of the secular world has passed. Myextended arms and wide turns illustrate the freedom I now live in.

Through practicing, rehearsing and performing such dances for 12 years, I havebecome a more complete person. I have learned more than 35 dances, and amprivileged to experience much of my own cultural tradition. Searching for anaudience's response, I have become a more observant person. Being instructed for12 years by Mrs. Ma, I have respect and honor toward her, as in Confucius' idealrelationship between a teacher and student. Being among the first in America topass the Beijing Academy of Dance syllabus test with honors has instilledconfidence and motivation to strive for that seemingly unattainable dream.Stretching and perfecting my technique for hours every week, I have gainedrespect for the body as an instrument, able to move here and there, and createlines and curves capable of affecting the audience's minds.

Being able toreach others through dance excites me and keeps me dancing. It excites me enoughto sacrifice Friday nights to improve my technique. It excites me enough to keepme going, even when I am exhausted. This element of dance makes me flutter likethe wind. It has touched me and called me to use my body to tell stories byunleashing the power of expression that I possess when I dance.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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