Chinese dance flair soars high in London

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Chen Nan
Friday 27 May 2022 13:04
<p>London landmarks form the backdrops for Ma Jiaolong’s dazzling dance displays</p>

London landmarks form the backdrops for Ma Jiaolong’s dazzling dance displays

With simulated splits in the air, a man in black jumps high and shows different poses before landing on the ground gracefully. Sometimes he carries a bright red silky fan while dancing or wears a shirt with long white flowing sleeves, while spreading his arms like wings in the air.

His dance is eye-catching, often attracting crowds that take pictures and ask what he is doing. He is Chinese dancer-choreographer Ma Jiaolong, 35, who has been making and publishing short videos of himself dancing in London since 2020. City’s parks and landmarks at which he has performed include Tower Bridge and Trafalgar Square. He has nearly five million followers on Douyin, an internet short-video platform in China.

“I’ve been surprised by the popularity of the videos,” Ma says. “The best part of being recognised is being able to introduce Chinese classical dance to a wider audience.”

Chinese classical dance, the veteran dancer says, blends movements of martial arts, as well as traditional Chinese operas. Ma has been teaching Chinese classical dance at Goldsmiths, University of London, since 2019, under a co-operative programme initiated by the Beijing Dance Academy.

He started making the videos two years ago when his regular teaching job was affected by the pandemic, he says. Like many others who worked from home, Ma had to give online courses. In addition to teaching he trained at home for at least two hours a day to keep his muscles strong and his body flexible.

However, his small home meant he could not make big moves. One day he and his wife, also a dancer, went shopping and on their way home passed Greenwich Park. Ma’s wife said to him: “Why not do some dance moves here that you can’t do at home?” Then Ma jumped off the ground and did a 360-degree spin, which his wife recorded on her phone.

“At home I edited the video with music and sent it to my friends,” Ma says. They loved it, and that inspired me to put it online.”

Whenever he went out he made more short videos and published them. “It seemed like a good way of capturing everyday memories.”

Ma says he enjoys dancing outdoors, which brings him closer to nature and helps him to focus on his breathing. Ma also likes to talk with anyone curious about what he is doing. “Dance has become a medium of communication between me and nature, and between me and the people passing by.”

After Ma’s videos circulated widely he received many messages from around the world. Many viewers voiced their appreciation of his artistry. As Chinese classical dance involves movements based on martial arts, Ma has combined his dance moves with dazzling action.

“It’s always been my goal to offer audiences worldwide a glimpse of Chinese classical dance since many people have no idea about the dance form. I have gained a deeper understanding of Chinese classical dance since I started to teach and live in London,” he says.

According to Ma, the dance focuses on portraying different characters through subtle movements, such as hand gestures and eye contact. “The dance form is a perfect blend of technique and artistry. For my students in the United Kingdom, who are not professional dancers, they learn Chinese classical dance as a way to understand traditional Chinese culture, rather than simply imitating my dance moves.”

Previously published on Chinadaily.com.cn

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