Students mark historic journey
More than 1,000 students of the Beijing Dance Academy and the middle school attached to the university performed during the grand gala celebrating the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China held at the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, on June 28.
The four-part gala, The Grand Journey, which lasted for two hours, traced the Party's century-long history from its revolutionary victories to the construction boom in the early days of the People's Republic of China and the national transformation brought about by reform and opening-up in recent decades.
"We were glad to have young students, both dancers and choreographers, taking part in the gala, which offered them valuable experience outside the classroom," says Shen Chen, deputy chief director of the gala.
The gala brought together about 16,000 performers, including the 1,000 young dancers and choruses of about 8,000 students from more than 20 universities.
Shen, who graduated from the Beijing Dance Academy in 1997 after studying choreography, attended an event held at the university on July 2 with other creative members of the gala, including director Chen Weiya, and co-directors Xiao Xiangrong and Meng Yan, to review the gala and tell the story behind it.
"We spent three months together preparing for the gala," Shen says.
"We lived in one base, which made the rehearsing a lot easier than it otherwise might have been. It also enabled us to be like one big family. The young students were very passionate about the gala and worked very hard day and night. They reminded me of my days as a student in the university."
Director Chen, also a graduate of the university, says: "The success of the grand gala was a result of many people's teamwork. Students were a major part of that. They contributed fresh ideas and inspired us during the rehearsals. Not only did they perform their own particular roles but they also took part in the gala as a whole. They were eager to learn."
The oldest performer was the Peking Opera artist Zhao Baoxiu, 73, and the youngest Ma Jieying, 8, from Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture, Sichuan province.
Xapkat, 21, a student with the Beijing Dance Academy majoring in choreography, performed in the first two parts of the gala.
Born in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, he has performed Uygur ethnic dance since he was a child. For his performances during the gala, he learned to combine his dancing style with contemporary dance.
"The dance depicts the war scenes and the heroic fight of the soldiers led by the Party," Xapkat says. "The movements were very intense and powerful, quite different from the dance styles I practiced at university."
His grandmother watched the gala, which was broadcast on TV on the night of July 1, he says.
"I used to focus on my own dancing style, which is mainly folk dance. But now my vision for dancing and choreographing is broader. It's a great experience to learn about the history of the CPC. I was very proud to be a part of the gala."
Xapkat also performed during the gala that marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 2019. Soon after, he became a Party member.
In addition to students studying choreography and various dance styles, such as traditional Chinese dance, contemporary dance and folk dance, students studying lighting design and stage design took part in the gala.
"We used more than 4,000 lights and screens of more than 8,000 square meters," says Ren Dongsheng, set designer of the gala, adding that about half the stadium was turned into a huge stage, with giant screens and two oval-shaped revolving platforms vividly recreating awe-inspiring scenes, from battles in modern China's biggest wars to the country's ending of extreme poverty, its battles against severe acute respiratory syndrome and COVID-19, and the country's exploration of space.
"Students learned to work together and developed a clear division of their own jobs," Ren says. "When we stood in the stadium looking at the lights and screens, it was just overwhelming. We shared the moment together."
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