Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 6, 2022

Lan Yun Blue Orchids perform Chinese traditional dance with a modern twist

By HELENA GIFFORD | April 23, 2022

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COURTESY OF HELENA GIFFORD

The Lan Yun Blue Orchids perform a fan dance during their Spring Showcase.

The Lan Yun Blue Orchids presented their Spring Showcase on April 16. Though the on-campus dance group is devoted to learning and performing traditional Chinese dance, they add a twist of modernity by dancing to songs that are popular in China today. This was the group’s first time hosting its own showcase, which also featured performances from the Yong Hang Lion Dance Troupe, Music Dynasty and the Hopkins Oriental Music Ensemble (HOME).

The Blue Orchids began by performing a fan dance set to music from the Chinese drama The Untamed. The group said that they chose this song in order to pay tribute to all the lives lost in the pandemic; the changing movements of the fans represented the changes in our lives.

The dancers glowed in long white dresses that beautifully offset the fiery orange and red of the fans. These were not your average paper fans either – each fan had a long swath of fabric billowing out from the ends of the fan that served to accentuate the graceful movements and coordination of the dancers.

Following the first dance was a performance by the Yong Hang Lion Dance Troupe. I am aware that the lion was essentially two college students underneath a glittery costume, yet, when it appeared the illusion of a fearsome beast stalking on stage was absolute. Beyond the beating drums, crashing gong and fierce gait of the beast, there was a sense of modern humor and fun in the performance. The lion batted at a giant cat toy and tossed balls into the audience, much to our delight.

In another performance from the Blue Orchids, they danced to “Like a Dream” from the Chinese drama The Story of Minglan. The performers danced without fans or other flashy accoutrements, allowing them to incorporate smaller and more intricate hand movements in their routine.

The acapella group Music Dynasty performed two songs, “我” by Leslie Cheung and “Audition” from La La Land. Both songs were modern, with one in Chinese and one in English. The group sang with balance in the harmonies and nailed the dynamics.

Before the next Lan Yun dance, there seemed to be a bit of a technical difficulty, as the dancers stood in ready position on a dark stage for a long moment before the lights came on. To their credit, the dancers did not waver from their positions and started their routine without pause. This dance incorporated water sleeves. The dancers’ dresses were specially made to have these extremely long sleeves which created long, flowing movements reminiscent of the passage of flowing water.

HOME performed the piece “Jasmine Flower.” The group used traditional East Asian instruments, including the ruan, erhu, dizi, gu, guzheng and pipa. The piece was slow and peaceful, a lovely traditional interlude between the more modern pop songs that had been playing all night.

The next dance was a solo piece from graduate student Candice Liu. She performed “The Letters” from the dance drama Confucius. This was another fan dance, and every motion was flourishing and graceful, yet done with lots of control and skill.

The Blue Orchids then performed to the song “Grain in Ear.” This was a dance using round fans which really stood out for how modern the dance style was. They combined the graceful, flowing traditional movements with the vibrancy and heat that is firmly rooted in today’s dance culture.

The Lion Dance Troupe performed a second choreography, this time featuring two lions. It told the story of two lions clashing over a golden pearl that realized that they must work together to succeed. This performance was more dramatic than the previous, showcasing dazzling flips and rolls from the lions as they fought. There was still that touch of humor, though, as they ended up having fun and kicking the pearl like a soccer ball between them as they left the stage.

There was a duet performance from seniors Charissa Zou and Heidi Zhang, performing “Big Fish and Begonia,” a story about a fish who falls in love with a human. They had great synchrony in their routine and told the story skillfully through their movements, all the way to the tragic ending of the fish having to return to her pond.

Finally, the Blue Orchids gave their closing group performance, another fan dance, set to the song “Upwards to the Moon.” This was followed by a touching send-off to graduating seniors Zou, Zhang and ­­Cherlin Zhu, complete with flowers and heartfelt messages from a few of the members.

In an interview with The News-Letter, sophomore Sandy Wong reflected on how it felt to dance in the showcase.

“Although it was super hectic and stressful getting all the little details sorted out the two weeks going up to the showcase, seeing it all come together made it really worth it,” she said. “I loved seeing my team members in their beautiful costumes, and it was an honor to perform and dance with them on stage.”

Wong commented on the group’s excitement about the event’s turnout.

“This was our first-ever showcase, and being one of the smaller and newer dance groups on campus, not many people have heard of us,” she said. “So the fact that as many people showed up to support as they did made us feel really loved and supported.”

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