The Wonders of Dance

By staff reporter HOU RUILI

SEVERAL months ago, Chen Wei and former university classmate Hu Yulin got married. Looking back on their lives together in university, Hu had a crush on her, but she had no feelings for him – yet.

Born into an impoverished rural family, Hu Yulin was quite small when he became entranced by the melodies of a flute vender, so he bought a flute for two yuan. He recalls, “From then on, I taught myself, for there was no one to teach me.”

At the age of 17, Hu went to Beijing to be mentored. With the support and instruction of flute professor Dai Ya at the Central Conservatory of Music, Hu was admitted to Capital Normal University. After four years of study, he continued graduate studies at the Central Conservatory of Music. After graduation, Hu Yulin began his teaching career at Capital Normal University. Meanwhile, he actively researched new performance techniques for the flute, eventually holding a solo concert at the Beijing Concert Hall and lecturing at universities across the country. He also released solo albums and performed music for several TV programs and movies, gaining wide recognition in the field. Hu soon came to be referred to as a flute genius.

Chen Wei was admitted at the age of 11 to the Hunan Provincial School for the Arts. On graduation, she went to Capital Normal University to major in dance. She was sent to Singapore twice on cultural exchanges, where her performance of the classical dance Jasmine Blooms won her fame and an invitation to teach, direct and perform at a dancing school. After graduation, she won a scholarship to the Korea National University of the Arts, and left Beijing to pursue further studies.

Chen spent two and half years learning traditional Korean dance and performed in many dance dramas. Of the many dances in which she took the lead, she was most impressed by that named Wave, portraying life from birth to death. Chen Wei learned much from her study abroad: “How you understand Wave or any other dance would depend on how you see it. Chinese dance prefers to depict stories with clear character relations. Many foreign dances prefer atmosphere and effects, where a story may be added but is not mandatory.”

Chen Wei was invited to be leading actress in The Legend of Kungfu at the London Coliseum. This show combined kungfu and dance, and presented Chinese elements, though the hero was changed from a Chinese monk to a famous English stage actor. Chen Wei recalls, “We gave 28 performances there without a single empty seat. British theater-goers appreciate kungfu and Chinese dancing, because it embodies traditional Chinese culture.” After graduation, Chen Wei went to study at a university in Beijing. She was later invited by the ministries of Education and Culture of the ROK to teach Chinese folk dance at the Korea National University of Arts (KNUA). For over a month she taught in the Korean language, and answered questions about dance theory, introducing Chinese dancing culture. At the end of the semester, visiting professors from various countries attended the distinguished evening dance gala that the university presented. Chen believes, “Arts need exchange. We not only need to explore the quintessence of traditional Chinese culture, but also learn the elements of dance from various countries, to make it international, not just regional.” Afterwards, when Korean artists came to Beijing, Chen would help to interpret for them. Then, when a teacher and student delegation from Mokwon University of South Korea came to Beijing to perform, Chen Wei met Hu Yulin again. This was the chance that allowed them to get to know each other better.

Soon afterwards, Chen Wei’s mother fell seriously ill. As an only child, Chen Wei had to take care of her mother during her treatment. Hu Yulin supported her both spiritually and financially and helped look after Chen’s mother from time to time. Through this, Chen Wei realized that Hu was very reliable, and someone she could spend her whole life with. Once, Chen Wei had tried for days to find a fitting flute melody for a dance performance. When she finally found one, it was, to her surprise, played by Hu Yulin. Over time they came to appreciate each other more and more, and at times performed together.

Chen Wei does not want to enroll with a professional arts troupe, because she would have to follow its directors and restrict her own imagination and creativity. What’s more, she wants to launch her own career, given the short professional life of dancers. She has a dream to popularize the arts and instruct people of different ages in performance, event presiding, and dance.

Chen Wei’s mother-in-law came from Jiangxi Province to live with them in Beijing. She joined a dance group in the community square. One day, when Chen Wei was passing by, her mother-in-law invited her to join them. Since then, the neighbors have known that Chen is a professional dancer, and ask for her advice. Chen is always glad to help, feeling obliged to introduce the joy and benefits of dance to people of all ages and backgrounds.