Zhang and Hu embrace traditional Chinese culture, form team to showcase dancing skills at international competitions
Andrea Hefferan | Staff Writer
From LA to Hong Kong, the members of Bing Yang Chinese Performing Arts Center have traveled thousands of miles in order to pursue their passion.
Bing Yang Chinese Performing Arts Center (BYC-PAC) is a team that performs cultural dances from China, traveling around the world to compete. Sophomore Judi Hu has performed a vast repertoire over the ten years she has been a part of the team.
“In China there’s two different types of dancing,” Hu said. “There’s the classical type dances and then the more ethnic dances. In China there are 56 different ethnic groups so each of those have their own dances. We’ve done a lot of different types of dances, so personally I’ve done Mongolian dances, peacock dances, the classical dances and also dai zu and also wei wu er zu.”
Hu is proud to be part of a group that portrays her Chinese heritage.
“(Chinese dancing) was a way to connect back to my culture because when you’re living in America and your parents are from China or a different country, you don’t really get to experience the stuff they have,” Hu said. “By doing traditional Chinese dancing, I can connect me back to my culture and become more unique.”
Sophomore Annie Zhang is also a part of BYC-PAC; being the oldest dancer on the team. BYC-PAC has helped her break out of her shell and share her talents with those around her.
“I used to really hate putting myself out (there),” Zhang said. “I really hated showing off or talking about my awards but gradually, especially coming more into this industry, you kind of have to put yourself out there. You have to show what you can do.”
Hu and Zhang have been a part of BYC-PAC since its creation, growing with the group and garnering awards such as the Best Studio Award at the Tali Cup. Now with its own studio and over 100 students, BYC-PAC is a far cry from its former days of ten people dancing in their teacher’s basement.
“It’s really amazing because I’ve been with the studio from when it’s been small to now when it’s bigger,” Hu said. “We’re going to these international competitions and my dance teacher is being recognized by the big famous teachers in China and they’re complimenting her on how well she’s teaching dance. In my studio I feel like I’m one of the blocks to the building, the foundation of it, because I’ve been there since it was tiny.”
Sophomores Judi Hu (right) and Annie Zhang (left) are a part of a team that performs cultural dances from China.
As a result of their dedication to dance, Hu and Zhang have gotten to compete at a multitude of locations. For Hu, these competitions are a peek into the entertainment industry she hopes will become her career.
“My favorite (competition) was definitely Beijing,” Hu said. “It was my first international competition and it was the one where just me and my dance teacher went so it was more special,” Hu said. “I got a lot of happy memories from there because when I’m older I want to be in the entertainment industry in China. (The competition) was me experiencing a piece of that and it was really cool seeing how the big entertainment stuff works in China.”
Through their team, the girls have performed solos that have awarded Hu first place at a Hong Kong Youth Talent Competition and landed Zhang a spot as the cover model for Cathy Roe. While Zhang is more comfortable performing with her team, Hu enjoys the individuality of solo dancing.
“In some ways, it’s easier to do a solo because it’s just you and you get to control the outcome of it,” Hu said. “For teamwork, everyone’s together and you all have to be feeling the same emotion to do it well. Teamwork is harder in some ways too because you have to work well with people; you have to have the same rhythm with them. If you don’t work well together, you’re bound to mess something up.”
With all of the trips the girls have taken throughout the year, they have had to miss many school days. The longest they have been absent from school is a week when they competed at Hong Kong, which forced Zhang and Hu to constantly plan ahead and organize.
“School is stressful especially when you’re taking hard classes, so adding on a layer of having to travel for dance really tests your ability to handle a lot of stuff,” Hu said. “I have to mature quicker; I have to assume my role quicker as a student and as a dancer. For me, if I don’t do school well, there’s no way that I can dance well.”
Each competition presents its own challenges, with the location being an important factor as to its outcome. Since Chinese dance varies stylistically from the traditional dances of the US, it is more difficult for BYC-PAC to compete in the US because of the different parameters that define each type of dance.
“Especially here in America, we compete with American dances like modern, contemporary, lyrical, jazz, and tap,” Zhang said. “It’s a lot harder to (compete) especially because the judges have never seen your dance before. Oftentimes they’ll judge us using American dance principles and that contradicts our dance. (For example) their walk is point to heel and our walk is specifically heel to toe. They always comment on that but it’s specific to our cultural dance. There’s always that discord with that.”
The elation that comes with winning never goes away no matter how many awards BYC-PAC has taken home. With each success the girls experience a renewed sense of accomplishment as they see the yield of the work they put in.
“You’ve worked so hard for that moment, and you’ve been practicing in the studio and you’ve been sweating a lot,” Hu said. “Just practicing and trying to get a certain move right, and then you finally get it right, and when you win a competition; it’s really exciting. Because at the moment, everything you’ve done and all the hard work has paid off.”
Photo by Tanner Pearson.