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Lotus Steps 2005 -- UCLA
From Lotus Steps 2004. Photo by Eric Chen.

Lotus Steps 2005 -- UCLA's Chinese Cultural Dance Club

Highly-regarded student-led program brings dance to Los Angeles audiences. Beyond its performances, the club also provides training for pre-teen students.

By Patty Ou
Production Manager/Public Relations, Chinese Cultural Dance Club

Many people are surprised to hear that there are fifty-six registered nationalities in China, each with its distinct culture, customs, and beliefs. The desire to educate others about this diversity of Chinese culture and dance styles, combined with love for dance, is was the instrumental force that sparked the creation of the UCLA Chinese Cultural Dance Club.

The UCLA Chinese Cultural Dance Club (CCDC) is an official UCLA student performing arts organization with the mission of sharing Chinese culture through dance. Founded by three UCLA students and one alumna in 2000, it strives to provide the UCLA campus and surrounding communities the unique opportunity to explore the diversity of Chinese culture and the experiences of Chinese-Americans through both traditional and contemporary folk dance and music. CCDC offers free dance instruction to anyone who is interested regardless of previous dance experience and training, and provides them with ample opportunities to perform at local cultural events. Students attend weekly lessons where they learn basic dance techniques as well as different Chinese dance styles. CCDC also puts on an annual dance production, Lotus Steps, open to the public free of charge at UCLA's world-renowned Royce Hall. Last year, approximately 1400 people attended Lotus Steps 2004, of which roughly 40 percent were non-UCLA-affiliated members of the community. Moreover, CCDC offers creative opportunities for aspiring choreographers, instructors, and dancers to expand their artistic knowledge and create new dance compositions. To this date, more than 100 students have benefited from CCDC's endeavors to develop artistic excellence and foster an appreciation for the rich heritage of Chinese culture.

CCDC has performed many folk dances of different ethnicities in China, such as those from Mongolia, Tibet, the Taiwanese aborigines, Han, Dai, and Uyger. Various styles of dances include Classical, Royal Court, Harvest Songs, and Kung Fu. Artistic Director, Josephine Louie, states, “Cultural dances are not archaic and rigid. We are not performing the same dances that our ancestors living hundreds of years ago did. A dance consists of movements and styles that convey the traditions, beliefs, and emotions of a group of people, or of a dancer at the time. Our dances are imbued with the passion and inspiration that reflect our current ideas and sentiment. We are interpreting cultural dances, relating our modern experiences with those of the past. Specifically, our dances reflect a Chinese-American experience.” This year, CCDC is taking an innovative approach to create contemporary dances exploring the Chinese-American experience. In Lotus Steps, 2005, CCDC will convey the experiences of five Chinese-American stories through narration, original orchestral music, and contemporary dance based on the various cultural dance styles.

Lotus Steps, 2005 will be held on May 7th, 2005, 7 PM at Royce Hall. Tickets are free of charge. Lotus Steps, 2005 will feature an entirely innovative approach in the expression of Chinese culture by combining various forms of performing arts into Chinese dance. Act I will present ten traditional cultural dances from various regions of China. The audience will experience the ethereal grace of the Lotus dance inspired by the lotus flower as a Buddhist symbol of tranquility and harmony, the earthy and lively temperament of the Tibetan women in the Enchantment of the Tibetan Plateau, and the energy and passion of the high-mountain Taiwanese aborigines of the Echoes fro Hualien. They will behold a festival of the Uyger people, who reside in the western China bordering the Middle East, and a rousing flag dance that conveys the jubilation of a wartime victory. The Mongolian bowl dance will feature young dancers aged six to nine from Families with Children from China (FCC-SoCal) will perform a Mongolian bowl dance, and a tai chi piece will be formed along with accompaniment by members of the L.A. Quintonix Chinese Instrument Ensemble, including Yaoning Sun on the erhu (two-stringed fiddle), Theresa Chen playing the guzheng (stringed zither), and Jason Wong on the dizi (bamboo flute).

Act II, titled “America!” will present five contemporary Chinese cultural dances accompanied by narration of the five stories that convey diverse personal experiences of Chinese-Americans. With a commission of an original orchestral composition written by Chinese-American composer Alexander Lu, the act will feature the outstanding Pasadena Young Musicians Orchestra under conductor Jo Raquel Stoup and the award-wining South Bay Children's Choir under director Diane Simons. Over two hundred performers will participate in Lotus Steps, 2005.

Act II, titled “America!” will feature five contemporary Chinese cultural dances presenting personal experiences of Chinese-Americans. The dances will be accompanied by the narration of the stories and by an original five-movement orchestral composition based on the theme of “America the Beautiful” written by Chinese-American composer Alexander Lu, the act will feature the outstanding Pasadena Young Musicians Orchestra (PYMO) under conductor Jo Raquel Stoup, and the award-wining South Bay Children's Choir under the direction of Diane Simons. PYMO is a well-known seventy-six-member advanced-level orchestra comprised of Southern California student musicians ages 16 to 18. The award-winning South Bay Children's Choir is a ninety-member group ages 7 to 17 Over two hundred performers will participate in Lotus Steps, 2005, including CCDC members and the guest performers.

CCDC is also devoted to outreach to youths in the Los Angeles Community who have little opportunity to learn about Chinese cultural dance or to attend a major dance performance. This year, CCDC has also launched a pilot youth outreach program with the goal of increasing access to cultural dance performances and creating opportunities to visit institutions of higher education for disadvantaged and at-risk adolescents. In hopes of promoting cultural diversity and providing such youth the opportunity to come to a greater understanding and appreciation for the message that Lotus Steps, 2005 will attempt to convey. CCDC will hold workshops that introduce the vast number of ethnicities in China and their various dance styles, as well as hold an art contest for middle school youth at South Scattered Sites (SSS) and Ujima Village Housing Developments two weeks prior to the performance day. SSS and Ujima Village are low-income public housing units funded by the Community Development Commission (CDC) of the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles. The art works inspired by the question, “What does being American mean to me?” will be showcased in the lobby of Royce Hall on the performance day. A total of thirty youth who are a part of this outreach program will attend Lotus Steps, 2005

Families with Children from China—Southern California (FCC-SoCal) have also been faithful participants of CCDC since 2002. Adopted children from China aged 6 to 9 come to UCLA every week to attend dance lessons. CCDC organizes the “Big Sis – Lil Sis program” that matches one CCDC member to a child from FCC-SoCal. The big sisters serve as mentors and friends, providing them with academic and artistic encouragement. In return, the Big Sisters enjoy the rewards of being a mentor such as the warm relationship with their Little Sisters and the joy of sharing one's experiences. Big Sisters and Little Sisters have attended a UCLA basketball game at Pauley Pavilion, held weekly tutoring sessions, and held a movie night. Each year, more families from FCC-SoCal join the CCDC family not only to learn about their heritage through dance, but also to participate in the meaningful Big Sis – Lil Sis program.

For more information, please visit www.ccdcbruins.org or contact ccdc@ucla.edu.