Brief: Student Dance Ensemble

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Xi Zhao, adjunct faculty and artistic director of Webster University dance ensemble, choreographed the international dance performance (one of six sets) staged April 29 – May 1 at the Loretto Hilton Center. The three dances included Tibetan dance, Dai dance and Mongolian dance.

“The Tibetan dances performed were choreographed by my Tibetan professor. She learned dance, I believe back [in] Tibet, then came to the University of China where I went. Then she was … trying to collect all the dancing materials and choreographed everything together. She also made textbooks, videos and DVDs so people can learn,” Xi said.

Abby LeBaube and Sam Schenkein perform the final dance, “Bury Me Standing,” choreographed by Ramón Oller, highlighting traditional Romani melodies and Flamenco music. Photo by Eve Cohen.

“Only doing Tibetan dance her whole life, [she] and her husband … met at the school, got married and [conducted further] research on Tibetan dance.They [led] field research then went back to watch more, collect the dance materials and break down the steps,” Xi said. They were doing ethnographic, participant observations to understand and convey the authenticity of the culture through dance. Moreover, Tibetan dance styles vary across regions.

One of the first generations to transmit Tibetan dance, her professor was known all across China. Tibetan dance originated from folk dance, passed down organically. Xi refers to the contribution of her teacher’s unique Tibetan perspective.

“I think when she moved to Beijing, her experience would definitely impact her styles … aspects, approach. Looking at the dance at a different angle,” Xi said.“She was trying to peel off the movements and find the very basic rhythm, and the … basic steps, and … put it together. She built up her whole curriculum in that way. The second-generation learned this way. They are from all different ethnic minorities.”

Each choreographer contributes a piece of their own “opinion” and identity to a dance. Xi says she is part of the third generation, contributing her own experiences, identity and style through her choreography.

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