Meet the millennials who are also traditional Chinese dancers | The A List
Students Lim Wan Ni and Cheryl Yap are two millennials who have embraced traditional Chinese dance and perform with the National University of Singapore Chinese Dance troupe. (Photo: NUS Chinese Dance EXCO19/20)

Meet the millennials who are also traditional Chinese dancers | The A List

What are millennials dancing to these days? Traditional Chinese dance might not immediately come to one’s mind, but Gen Y-ers are embracing the tradition. We speak with three members from the National University of Singapore’s Chinese Dance troupe – Cheryl Yap, 21, Stefanie Cai, 21 and Tan Jung Howe, 25, to find out why traditional Chinese dance is #relevant.

What drew you to traditional Chinese dance?
Stefanie Cai: Chinese dance was very popular at the primary school I attended. The dancers were admired for their grace and they were exempted from the school rule that did not allow students to keep long hair. So, I asked to join Chinese dance, and my parents agreed. They felt it would help me know my cultural roots.

Tan Jung Howe: I attended the 40th anniversary performance of NUS Chinese Dance and I became enamoured with the way the dancers moved. I have been dancing since secondary school, but mostly modern dance, Latin and hip hop. Chinese dance, with moves which are more fluid, seemed like a genre I could learn to challenge myself.

What common misconceptions do people have of traditional Chinese dance?
Cai: A common misperception people have of traditional Chinese dance is that it is all about twirling ribbons and using props such as fans.

Tan: People think it is accompanied by fast-paced, jovial music, the kind one hears when primary school kids perform Chinese dance.

What do you find most challenging about traditional Chinese dance?
Tan: The language. I am not proficient in Chinese and the instructor teaches only in Mandarin. My friends had to translate for me because I could not tell left from right!

Cai: A lot of body control is required to perform the movements, including the most basic ones. Even our fingers must exude strength and energy.

What has learning traditional Chinese dance taught you?
Cheryl Yap: I learnt how it is possible to possess strength in grace through traditional Chinese dance moves.

Cai: I picked up ancient Chinese sayings and poems through the group’s collaboration with academics. We invite professors to share with us the meaning behind sayings and poems that inform the dances we perform.

Responses has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Find out more about NUS Chinese Dance here.

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