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Traditional warrior dance amazes Londoners

By Zheng Wanyin in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-02-12 19:27

The traditional Puning Yingge Chinese folk dance takes center stage at London’s Burlington Arcade on Saturday, as part of celebrations to mark the start of the Year of the Dragon. [Photo by Yu Guo/for China Daily]

A group of dancers performed the traditional Chinese Puning Yingge folk dance at the Burlington Arcade in London on Saturday, to celebrate Chinese New Year and offer people a sensory cultural feast.

With painted faces and each dancer holding a pair of short batons, the performers jumped and swung the sticks while walking and dancing, all to the resounding sound of drums, gongs, and shouts.

The 16 dancers, from the Chaoshan region of South China's Guangdong province, hail from the place where the dance originated and traveled to England to spread wishes of good fortune in the Year of the Dragon to people in the United Kingdom.

The delegation was organized by the Guangdong Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism.

Dancers perform the traditional Chinese Puning Yingge folk dance at London’s Burlington Arcade on Saturday, to celebrate the start of the Year of the Dragon and promote Chinese culture in the UK. [Photo by Yu Guo/for China Daily]

"The performance is electrifying. I feel like it has woken up everybody in the arcade," said Trupti Shah, commercial director of the Burlington Arcade.

The Puning Yingge dance, which is classified a national intangible cultural heritage in China, dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and is considered the dance of warriors because of its close association with the classic novel about Chinese heroism called Water Margin.

Through a combination of opera, dance, and martial arts, the dance evokes the fighting spirit of the characters in the story, said Chen Laifa, a nationally recognized inheritor of the Puning Yingge dance and leader of the team of performers.

The dance is often showcased during traditional Chinese festivals and is seen as a symbol of good suppressing evil and bringing peace, Chen said.

"We would like to convey this spirit to the British people and, at the same time, promote our own culture," Chen said.

The Puning Yingge dance features not only electrifying performances but colorful and exciting costumes. [Photo by Yu Guo/for China Daily]

Many members of the dance team are not full-time performers but ordinary people who earn their living by doing a range of jobs, including car detailing, running online stores, and managing small businesses, Chen said.

And to continue the performance of the cultural heritage, the dance, which was traditionally inherited only by men, is now embracing more women performers, Chen noted.

"We definitely need more people to carry forward the heritage," he said.

The Puning Yingge performance at the Burlington Arcade was part of a series of activities hosted by the shopping gallery to mark the Chinese New Year. The arcade, which opened in 1819, is regarded as one of London's iconic landmarks.

The performance event is also part of the 2024 Happy Chinese New Year celebrations in the UK,which are supported by the Cultural Section of the Chinese Embassy in the UK.

"We feel like our heritage of 205 years and the Yingge dance heritage of more than 300 years is a good combination and a good way to celebrate Chinese New Year," Shah said.

zhengwanyin@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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