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BWW Review: Blending the Beauty of the East and West with NAI-NI CHEN DANCE COMPANY

Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College, in conjunction with its third Annual Lunar New Year Celebration, partnered once again with the prestigious Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company in an all new celebration of Chinese arts and culture. Under the direction of renowned traditional dancer of Taiwan, Nai-Ni Chen, this ethnically diverse Chinese-American company seeks to bridge the gap of cultural understanding and appreciation of American modern dance and Asian art.

For the traditional Chinese dance section of the program, the company performed the Double Lions Welcoming Spring -- one of the most popular dances performed in the Chinese New Year Celebration. You don't have to be familiar with traditional Chinese dance to recognize this piece. Said to have originated during the Tang Dynasty 3,000 years ago, the dance is seen as a prayer of peace symbolizing harmony on earth. I loved the level of athleticism among the dancers from the jumps, flips, high kicks, and spins. This particular production of the Lion Dance is performed in the Northern part of China. Other pieces included the Mongolian Chopstick Dance featuring graceful circular gestures as the dancers made sounds by hitting chopsticks against each other, their bodies, and the floor, and Joy -- a fan dance by the Korean ethnic group of Northeast China.

For the Western modern dance portion of the show, the company performed a piece entitled Mirage. This was inspired by the unique rhythms and dance movements of the Uyghur people of Xinjiang, China. What an absolutely stunning piece! The wonderful partner work, the beautiful lines, and strong technique show just how talented these dancers are. The piece, Movable Figures, was an exploration of the motion and expression of shadow puppets on a two-dimensional stage. It had an Egyptian-like feel with many straight lines and quick and sharp movements.

This year's Lunar New Year Celebration commemorates the Year of the Monkey, a year characterized by cleverness, curiosity, and playful mischief. As a very special treat, internationally acclaimed and silver medalist, Feng Gu of the Beijing Kunqu Theater, performed the role of the Monkey King in an excerpt from Havoc in the Heavenly Palace, detailing the legend of the Monkey King. What a sensational piece! With the acrobatics, and cool tricks juggling flags, swords, and sticks, it's no wonder that Mr. Gu is a leading artist and a top five medalist in the worldwide Monkey King competition!

With thrilling choreography, traditional music, and dazzling acrobats, this festive family-friendly event skillfully showcased the elegance of traditional Asian art and the beauty of American modern dance.

Be sure to catch this stunning group as they celebrate the Year of the Monkey throughout the New York Metropolitan area with performances at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the American Museum of Natural History, Flushing Town Hall and more!

Please visit their website at www.nainichen.org for more information.

Photo Credit: Joseph Wagner


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