Lunar New Year Celebration

Intro Video

Join us for a festive gathering for the biggest holiday in the world: the 2022 Lunar New Year of the Water Tiger.  Immerse your family in the sound of firecrackers, cymbals and drums that accompany the acrobatic lion dancers and be mesmerized by the vibrant colors from the motions of the endless floating lines of fabric, costumes and props that are created by the agile dancers and warriors.  Follow the dancing dragon to the lobby for a dazzling display of amazing visual arts and crafts that you can bring back home for a whole year of good fortune, luck, creativity and prosperity. 

Choreographer Nai-Ni Chen has been making dances that bridge the richness of Asian artistic heritage and the dynamism of American dance for the past 30 years. In this celebration of the Year of the  Water Tiger, she hopes that the steps her diverse Company takes can get people to be more aware of the uniqueness of the Asian American perspective that is shaped by both cultures, and to recognize Asian American contribution to the diversity of ideas in our society.

Press Quotes

“...None of these vignettes ever look traditionally folkloric.  There is always something fresh about the way old elements are used to mesh into something new...-

Attitude

 

"an impressionistic work drawing on age old Chinese tradition, which originally was commissioned by Lincoln Center Institute, the educational arm of Lincoln Center in New York.”  

“The dance unwinds like an ancient Chinese painting on a scroll, one section at a time.” .. 

The Star Ledger

 

“Cross Cultural influences in Nai-Ni Chen’s artistry reveal her great strength lies in breaking away from rigid forms, while she simultaneously maintains essential elements of Chinese classical dance.”

The Northeastern News, Boston, MA

 

Nai-Ni Chen's choreography, while artfully constructed, is not an abstract experiment in dance architecture; rather, Chen aims to entrance us - and we don't just mean modern dance converts.  This is THE dance to which to take your non-dance friends, the one you've been trying to turn on to all the potential power and beauty of dance. 

The Dance Insider


                                                                                                                 

Double Lion Dance

Choreography: Nai-Ni Chen

Music and Costumes: Chinese folk

Lighting Design: Susan Summers

Acrobat Collaborator: Yang Xiao Di

Dancers: Company Dancers

 

As one of the most popular dances performed during the Chinese New Year celebration, the Lion Dance is said to have originated in the Tang Dynasty 3,000 years ago. The Emperor would hold a festival in which people dressed in a hundred kinds of animal costumes, among them the lion. Always performed at the beginning of the year, the Lion Dance is considered a prayer of peace. Throughout the dance a child playfully leads a beast, symbolizing harmony on earth.  In this dance, acrobatic skills, coordination, and concentration are critical. There are many styles of the Lion Dance in China; this is the Northern style.

Bai Ethnic Coinstick Dance

Arranged by: Nai-Ni Chen
Music: Folk Tune from Bai Minority Group of Yunnan

Performed by the Melody of Dragon Music Ensemble.
Costumes: Chinese Folk 
Dancers: Company Dancers


Yunan province in Southwestern China is known for its richness in dance and music because of the 25 minority groups in this one province.  This dance originates from the Bai group in Yunan.  The culture of Bai is influenced by the Han Group (the majority group in China) a great deal.  It was said that The Coin Stick Dance of the Bai group actually came from the Han group in Central China.  This dance is usually performed in pairs of dancers, and the stick is made from bamboo.  The coins that fill the holes on the stick make interesting sounds when the dancers shake and hit the stick on their body and the floor as they dance with it in celebration.
 

Peacocks Dance Under the Moonlight
 
Arranged by: Nai-Ni Chen and Min Zhou
Music: Dai Minority folk music
Musicians: Hulusi soloist: Katelyn Weng and Chinese Music Ensemble of New York  
Lighting Design: Susan Summers
Dancers: Company Dancers


There are more than 55 ethnic groups living in China, and each group has unique dances and music. The peacock is considered a sacred bird among the Dai people in the Yunnan province. Because of the performers’ supreme grace and elegance as peacocks, this dance is one of the most beautiful from that province. Many of the movements in this piece derive from real actions of the peacock, such as drinking water, walking, running, and grooming its feathers.
The solo musical instrument- hulusi was originally used primarily in the Yunnan province by the Dai and other non-Han ethnic groups but is now played throughout all of China. Like the related free reed pipe called bawu, the hulusi has a very pure, clarinet-like sound.

Mountain Rain in the Tea Garden 

Choreography: Nai-Ni Chen 
Music: Taiwanese Folk Tune

Dancers: Company Dancers

 

Taiwan is well-known for its tea culture and the beauty of the tea plantations.  Tea gardens in the high mountain grow the best tea in this region.  Girls working in the tea plantation catch the moment of spring rain to pick up their umbrellas and playing cheerfully in the rain.
 

Gu Ze Yungge  (Harvest Dance)

Arranged and Danced by: Min Zhou, Guixhuan Zhuang
Music: Folk music of Shang Dong province
Costume: Chinese Han folk
Lighting Design: Yi-Chung Chen

Yung Ge is one of the most popular folk dances of the Han people in Northeast China. During harvest time or the Chinese New Year celebration, villagers gather in the fields to dance with fans, handkerchiefs, and drums to celebrate their year-long hard work and to welcome the New Year.  Their movements are every stylized and energetic and usually performed to a repetitive drum beat.  
 

Chinese Bamboo Rap
Kuaiban

Performer:  XingYe Ma

 


Bamboo Rap is an ancient form of spoken word art practiced in Northern China.  The performer speaks rhythmically and accompanies his words with a pair of bamboo claps held in both hands.  They tell historic stories of hero, villain and significant events that make up the colorful history of China.  Sometimes, they will include poems, tongue twisters and other spoken word techniques. 


The Legend of the White Serpent
Stealing of the Magical Herb – Excerpt from Kunqu Opera

Choreography: Kunqu Opera
Music and Costume: Traditional Chinese Opera
Performers: Ying-Chan Li (The White Serpent), Yao-Zhong Zhang (The Faiyr Deer Guardian); Ji-Ling Li (The Fairy Crane Guardian)

 


Xu Xian, a young man who rescued a small snake when he was a small child, met a beautiful woman one day and they were married happily.  He did not know that the woman was the magical Lady White Serpent who decided to return to earthly life to help her savior from the past.  Monk Fahai, angry at the magical being's enjoyment with mortals, warned Xu Xian that his wife is actually a snake monster who transformed herself into a beautiful woman with ill intentions. During the Dragon Boat festival, Xu Xian listened to the words of Fahai, persuaded his pregnant wife,Bai, to drink realgar liquor which broke down Bai's magic and she appeared in her original form as a white serpent. Seeing her, Xu Xian became frightened to death.  Realizing that the only way to bring him back to life would be the magical herb from the Kunlun Mountain at the South Pole, Bai set forth on a quest.  

The excerpt begins here…
Approaching the Herb, she was met with the guardians of the herb and a great magical battle began.  Being pregnant, Bai was unable to defeat the guardians and faced death herself.  The God of the South Pole took sympathy upon Bai's love and gave her the Herb to save Xu Xian.
 

The Exodus of Wang Zhaojun

Choreography: Kunqu Opera
Music and Costume: Traditional Chinese Opera
Performers: Yong-Hong Jia, Yao-Zhong Zhang


Lady Zhaojun is a well-known Kunqu Opera tale.  During the Han dynasty (around 140 B.C.), Emperor Yuan, in order to appease a belligerent minority tribe, sends Lady Zhaojun to marry their king.  This part of the opera depicts her struggles as she reluctantly leaves her home.  Throughout the treacherous journey, Lady Zhaojun’s strength, wisdom and beauty is exhibited by her acting, dance and martial arts ability.
 

Chinese Music
Sheng (Mouth Organ)
Golden Phoenix

Musician: Carrie Jin


The sheng is a Chinese mouth-blown free reed instrument consisting of vertical pipes. It is a polyphonic instrument and enjoys an increasing popularity as a solo instrument.  It is one of the oldest Chinese instruments, with images depicting its kind dating back to 1100 BCE,[1] and there are original instruments from the Han era that are preserved in museums today. Traditionally, the sheng has been used as an accompaniment instrument for solo suona or dizi performances. It is one of the main instruments in kunqu and some other forms of Chinese opera. Traditional small ensembles also make use of the sheng, such as the wind and percussion ensembles in northern China. In the modern large Chinese orchestra, it is used for both melody and accompaniment.

Chinese Music

Ruan (Moon Guitar)
Drum Beat for the Flying Dragon

Musician:  Yueqin Chen


The ruan (Chinese: 阮; pinyin: ruǎn) is a traditional Chinese plucked string instrument. It is a lute with a fretted neck, a circular body, and four strings. Its four strings were formerly made of silk but since the 20th century they have been made of steel (flatwound for the lower strings). The modern ruan has 24 frets with 12 semitones on each string, which has greatly expanded its range from a previous 13 frets. The frets are commonly made of ivory or in recent times of metal mounted on wood. The metal frets produce a brighter tone as compared to the ivory frets. It is sometimes called ruanqin, particularly in Taiwan.

Acrobatics - Chinese Toe Tip Balancing Act
Dream of Peacocks - Umbrella Balancing

Choreographed and Performed by Lina Liu

Chinese acrobats are full of varieties.  This act focuses on balancing technique on the toes which require a performer spend their life time to perfect it.
 

Acrobatics - Balancing Act

The Happy Chef
Created and Performed by Yang Xiao Di
 


Chinese performing arts have a long history. Variety show is known to existed as early as the Qin dynasty (221-207 BC) or possibly earlier. During the Qin and Han periods, Juedi (角抵) or Baixi (百戲) variety show was popular with the common people.  The difficult balancing act shown here is incredibly difficult and require persistence and dedication to perform.

Dragon Dance

Choreographed by: Nai-Ni Chen
Dancers: The Company
Music: Peng Xiuwen & Cai Huiq

As the most spectacular folk dance performed in the Chinese New Year Celebration, Dragon Dance depicts a mythical animal, which symbolizes imperial power and nature’s grace.  For those fortunate to see it in the Chinese New Year, prosperity and good fortune is ensured for the coming year.
 

Ten Miles A Day
Choreography: Nai-Ni Chen
Music: Glen Velez

Dancers: Company Dancers

Inspired by the legendary achievement of the early Chinese immigrants in the construction of the transcontinental railroad of the western United States.  The Chinese railroad workers broke the construction record by laying  ten miles of railroad tracks in one day in Promontory, Utah in 1869.
 

Whirlwind 
Choreography: Nai-Ni Chen
Music: Glen Velez
Musicians in the recording: Glen Velez and the Ta Ka Di Mi Project
Visual Art: Jayanthi  Moorthy
Costumes: Anna-Alisa Belous
Dancers: Company Dancers

Whirlwind is a phenomenon in the desert caused by the air coming from the mountains to the desert plain in different directions. This dance explores trance, rhythmic breathing, sound and spiral motion that Nai-Ni experienced on her journey through the Silk Road.

JinHu (High Pitched 2-String Violin)
Welcoming the Spring
Musician - Master Yan YiChuan and the Zenxhing Opera Society


Jing Hu, a special fiddle that serves as the leading instrument for Beijing Opera band, does not only delivers a unique and authoritative sound, but also carries the emotion of an opera show.  Mr. Yichuan Yan, born in Shanghai, China, is widely regarded as one the best Jing Hu players of his generation. 

Coinstick Dance

Arrangement: Nai-Ni Chen in cooperation with Qiao Zeng and Min Zhou
Music and Costumes: Chinese Folk Music 

Dancers: Company

The Coin Stick dance originated with the Hans, in Hubei province, and is traditionally done by street performers. Dancers drill holes in the sticks, which are made of bamboo, and fill the holes with coins.  The performers hit the sticks against their bodies and the ground to produce interesting rhythms as they move,  often incorporating acrobatic skills.  Today, this dance is usually performed in groups of men and women during festival celebrations. 
 

Tuesday Feb 1, 2022 begins Year of the Black Water Tiger

Double Lion Welcome the Spring

Peacocks Dance Under the Moonlight

Kuaiban, Chinese Bamboo Rap

Bai Ethnic Coinstick Dance

Mountain Rain the Tea Garden

Sponsors and Support

THANK YOU

Programs of the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company are made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation (MAAF), the New Jersey Cultural Trust, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, The New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund administered by the Princeton Area Community Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Hyde and Watson Foundation, E.J. Grassman Trust, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey,  the Live Music for Dance Program of New Music USA, the Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Dance/NYC Dance Advancement Fund, the Rapid Response Program of American Dance Abroad, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ Cultural Exchange Fund, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, PSEG, Proskauer, WAC Lighting, and the Glow Foundation.

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Tel: 201-562-4073

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