Chinese Water-Sleeve; bringing a piece of Chinese culture to Bucknell

Juliana Rodrigues, Staff Writer

Outsiders to the dance world may have a narrow understanding of what dance is or what it looks like, but in reality, it comes in many different forms and is present in most cultures. Asking a typical University student not involved in the dance program what classes they think the University offers, responses will vary from “Ballet, maybe Lyrical, Jazz and Hip Hop” from Sami Dunn ’22, to “I had no clue they even had dance classes” Ally Neuendorff ’24. Available at the University are the fundamental classes of ballet, modern, jazz and Chinese Water Sleeve. Chinese Water Sleeve class allows students to be immersed in a small, but important part of Chinese culture.

This form of dance utilizing elongated sleeves originated in China during the Zhou Dynasty and gained popularity during the Ming Dynasty. Over time, this dance form has gained more popularity and can now commonly be found in other countries. Water Sleeve is merely one form of dance amongst the many that are showcased in Chinese culture as theater and dance hold many popular traditions and rituals.

Er-Dong Hu, a professor in the Theater and Dance department at the University, originally received his dance training in China. Having been a part of the Beijing Dance Academy and the Dayton Ballet, Hu brings with him extensive experience and knowledge that he is passionate about sharing with his students. In addition to teaching a variety of traditional dance classes and choreographing, Professor Hu brought this Chinese Water Sleeve class to the University.

Professor Hu took the time to speak about his personal experience with Chinese Water Sleeves and what it had been like sharing that with students. “I first learned the art at the Beijing Dance Academy in China… it’s over 500 years old and started first in Chinese opera,” Hu said. When asked why he felt it was an important class to teach, he explained that it was important to show students the dance forms of different cultures and different techniques. The character of the movement of the sleeves is beautiful to watch; however, it is also a particular and challenging technique to learn. Learning this movement is a unique and new experience for students as they typically would not have former training with any similar dance form. Hu said that the University is the “only liberal arts school in the United States to consistently offer Chinese Water Sleeve Class.” He expanded on this, stating that other schools may have guest teachers come for a short period of time, but here he consistently offers the art as a class every semester as part of the curriculum for a dance minor. These offerings are extremely rare to find in a college dance program and something to be highly appreciative of at the University. Hu concluded by explaining that he also works with students teaching “Chinese Sword,” another form of traditional dance.

Olivia Vosbikian ’22, a dance minor, has been a part of the University dance program for four years participating in technique classes, showcases and main stage performances. This semester she has had the chance to be a part of the Chinese Water Sleeve class. She spoke about her time in the class so far. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to learn about another culture through dance. None of the dance classes that I’ve taken in the past are anything close to the art of Chinese Water Sleeve, and this new experience has been exciting. Er-Dong is so passionate about what he teaches and it makes the class even more enjoyable,” Vosbikian said.

While it may not be common knowledge amongst the University students outside the dance program, Professor Hu and others who make up the department have cultivated a curriculum that highlights technique in combination with other cultures. As the only liberal arts school school to offer the Chinese Water Sleeve class, this is just another example of the uniqueness of Bucknell’s Theatre and Dance department. The dance community and their technique classes are always open to those looking to try and learn something new!

The program also does not just stop at technique classes. Any “non-dancer” students timid to try a class but interested in learning about other cultures through dance can look into the two hundred level class, “History of Dance.” The course is centered around learning about different cultures from around the world, and dance is found there. The class is offered in the fall semester and is a perfect opportunity to take a small step into the dance world.

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