Dance with Hands: Research of the Hand Dance in Chinese Classical Dances

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Table of Contents
Rosearch Staius of Hand Dance in Chinese Classical Dance
1.1 The Existent Forms of Chinese Classical Dances
1.Basic Hand Shapes of the School of Shen Yun of Chinese Classical Dances
2.Basic Hand Shapes in the Han—Tang School of Chinese Classical Dances
3.Basic Hand Shapes in the School of Dunhuang of Chinese Classical Dances
4.Modes of Motion of Hand Dance in Chinese Classical Dances
5.Practices of Hand Dance of Chinese Classical Dances in Training
1.2 A Case Study of Hand Dances in the Dance Creation of Chinese Classical Dances
1.Tang Mancheng: The Typical Application of Hand Dances in the Shen Yun School in Ru Ci Duo Jiao (So Rich in Beauty)
2.Sun Ying: An Analysis of the Hand Dance in the Han—Tang, School from Stepping Dance to Tong Que Ji
3.Gao Jinrong: The Application of Typical Hand Dances in The Rain of Flowers on the Silk Road, the Predecessor of the Dunhuang School
The Reallstlc Basis from Life and Cultural Basis of the Hand Dance in Chinese Classical Dances
2.1 The Realistic Basis from Life of Hand Dance
1.The Main Means of Expression of Sign Language
2.Nouns and Verbs in Sign Language
3.Various Sentence Patterns in Sign Language
2.2 The Cultural Basis for Hand Dance in Chinese Classical Dances
1.An Analysis of the Hand Dance Movements in Grotto Statues and Unearthed Cultural Relics
2.The Preaching and Singing Culture of the Temples in Tang Dynasty
3.A Case Study of Thousand—handed Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Guanyin)
2.3 The Gestures and Movements in Dances of Chinese Traditional Operas
1.The Materials of Movements in the Hand Dance of Liyuan Opera
2.The 53 Moves in Mei Lanfang School of Peking Opera
3.The Extraction and Application of Hand Movements in Liyuan Opera
The Artistic and Cultural Features of Hand Dance of Chineso Classical Dances
3.1 The Characteristics ofArtistic Expression of Hand Dance of Chinese Classical Dances
1.Artistic Representation: The Features of Narrative Hand Movements
2.Artistic Presentation: The Features of Lyrical Hand Movements
3.2 The Characteristics of Cultural Symbols of Hand Dance of Chinese Classical Dances
1.Basic Modes of Hand Dance of Chinese Classical Dances
2.Cultural Features of Hand Dance of Chinese Classical Dances
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2.1 The Realistic Basis from Life of Hand Dance
Sign language is an important tool for the deaf to communicate. As a language, it has been increasingly applied in various kinds of communications among this group of people. Although deprived of the ability to communicate orally, they gradually have developed this unique medium for communication, sign language, throughout the long history of human civilization. Its importance for their survival and life is self-evident. Its connections and combination with body movement in dancing is not by chance at all. “Dance, this old art form full of youth and vigor, has been passed down until today along with the ceaseless and never-ending human cultural evolution. During the process that human beings have created culture and have been recreated by it, they have gradually developed this category of art with independent character and aesthetic value which has an irreplaceable social function.” The ways of being and of presenting of the body movement of human beings themselves as a medium determines that dance is one of their oldest artistic forms. It has long been valued as “the mother of human arts”. From its exposition at the very beginning of On Chinese Dances by Zi Huajun, dance is not only a self-entertaining activity, but also a means of expression to convey messages and emotions. Usually, people use medium such as languages and words to express emotions and convey information. As for the art form of dance, the medium of expression is the body of the dancer. Just to express more “effective body language information”, the choreographer should think about diligently how to construct a richer and more accurate movement itself and how to help the performer express his or her own ideas or emotions after those are combined with artistic and aesthetic appreciation. The deaf with various needs to express themselves have continuously developed and enriched the movement content of sign language. “As an instinctive desire of individuals for their living space or domain, people’s sign language first expressed friendly and sincere messages and yearnings for those from the same group or sharing the same social network. Reaching out hands forward embodies this friendliness and sincerity.” With regard to expression, although there are some differences between the movements applied in sign language by the deaf and those used by the dancers, they share some elements in common to some extent.
China embarked upon the undertaking to regulate the sign language for the deaf people as early as 1950s. In May 1987, at the third National Sign Language Conference convened in Tai’an, Shandong Province The Chart of General Sign Language for the Deaf and Mute was renamed Chinese Sign Language. For the unity and standardization of Chinese sign language, experts and professionals of our country have long devoted their unremitting efforts. The book Chinese Sign Language was compiled after their repeated siftings and careful considerations, including 3330 words. The following analysis and research are based on 30 basic hand shapes enumerated in this book, highlighting the hand motion itself and its function to express and communicate. Reviewing the hand motions used in Chinese sign language in a rational way, it is not difficult to notice that sign language itself is a source to enrich the dance language.
1. The Main Means of Expression of Sign Language
Due to different social conventions, sign language varies from countries and regions. For instance, American sign languages have formed by the 26 alphabets while Chinese sign languages have derived from the Chinese pinyin. Therefore, the deaf people in the two countries have developed relatively distinct sign languages. However, the sign languages for the deaf people without linguistic competence in various countries and regions do share many elements in common. In different parts of China, the learning and application of sign languages are relatively unified. But the differences caused by social conventions and regional divergence are hard to be unified. Such as speech, both Beijing dialect and Shanghai dialect are Chinese. But the regional accents themselves tell the differences between the two. Thus, Mandarin has become China’s official tongue. With regard to the sign language for the deaf, acknowledging the diversified variants caused by social customs in different areas, Chinese Sign Language aims to unify its learning and using.
From the communications of deaf people with the outside world, it can be seen that they imitate the daily actions. For example, they imitate the action of eating to express the idea of eating. By spreading five fingers with palm facing upwards of the left hand, they imitate the action of holding rice bowl with one hand. By holding the right hand in a natural palm shape, they imitate the action of taking a swallow of rice. They also imitate some pictographic movements. Take “dragon” for example. They clench fists with both hands while reaching out the index fingers and sweep two curves simultaneously under the nose in front of the face to imitate the palpi of the dragon. This is the way for the deaf people to express. Sometimes, there are different sign languages to indicate the same meaning. For example, for convey the word of “apple” there are two different sets of hand motions. The first one is to use the right hand to sweep a parallel line from left to right in front of the body with the five fingers drawing close to each other and palm facing downwards to indicate the first character of the Chinese word “apple” (pinyin: píng guǒ) since the Chinese word of a parallel line (pinyin: píng xíng xiàn) shares the same sound with the first character of the Chinese word “apple”. Then clench fists while reaching out the thumbs and index fingers to form a circle to indicate the shape of the fruit. The second set of hand motions is to use the right hand to spread and slightly curve the five fingers just like holding a round object in one’s hand and then place this hand against the body to imitate the movement of rubbing. Then keep the same hand shape still and place the right hand near the mouth to imitate the movement of eating. There are many words like “apple” which have multiple expressing methods. The forming process of these different methods is noteworthy. For instance, the first method mentioned above is the sign language developed by people with linguistic competence according to the pronouncing habit of the word “apple” while the second one is naturally formed by the congenitally deaf-mute people.
To communicate with others in sign language, the deaf people use many more hand motions beyond the scope of those included in the textbook of Chinese Sign Language. Since we cannot calculate these hand motions quantitatively, this text will put those aside for the moment. The 30 basic hand shapes on which this text is based derive from the Chinese pinyin. One hand shape stands for one Chinese phonetic alphabet. However, some special education teachers of sign language do not suggest using the 30 basic hand shapes of Chinese pinyin. The reason for this is simple: it is very hard for the congenital deaf-dumb to learn this kind of Chinese sign language based on pinyin since they have no concept of the ways of pronunciation of pinyin and they find it difficult to memorize the 30 basic hand shapes. It is thus more difficult for those congenitally deaf-dumb people to learn the textbook of Chinese Sign Language than those with adventitious deafness. The former find it easier to learn from the everyday movements and imitate those into sign language to communicate with others. These two different ways are actually the two different methods of Chinese sign languages developed in many years. This text will not judge which method is more reasonable but to point out that the 30 basic hand shapes are already unified and included in the textbook and thus more representative and typical with regard to the hand shapes applied in Chinese sign languages. The following is a graph of Chinese alphabets in fingers and also the 30 hand shapes evolved in Chinese sign language.


Having developed up till now, the Chinese Classical Dance has already formed its own training methods, teaching systems and stage performance of dance choreography. However, how to further develop the disciplinary system of Chinese Classical Dances, enrich stage creation and production, and enhance aesthetic expressiveness has always been a topic that those researchers and lovers of Chinese Classical Dance who have always focused and cherished it are reflecting on and pursuing after. With the basic inductive and analytical approaches, the author has drawn on some important views on choreoecology and weaved several core ideas of dance anthropology into the research methods of this study. With objective and meticulous analysis of the status quo and a comparative study of other hand dances in the world, the author aims to explore the basis constitution and cultural implications of hand dance of Chinese Classical Dance in order to deepen the understanding of its nature.
1. Concepts Applied Hereafter
I. Chinese Classical Dance
The term of Chinese Classical Dance widely acknowledged by China’s dancer circle refers to the type of dance established in Beijing Dance Academy in 1950s. With nearly 60 years’ development, Chinese Classical Dance has evolved from the monotonous pattern of class training at the very beginning to an important dance force integrating class training with artistic production and stage performance today. Especially since the implementation of Reform and Opening-up Policy, Chinese Classical Dance has undergone a breakthrough in its development. Three schools have formed including the Shen Yun School crystallized by the Shen Yun class in Beijing Dance Academy and its representative dances, the Han-Tang School embodied in the training class of Han-Tang classical dance in Beijing Dance Academy and its representative dances, and the Dunhuang School highlighted in the Dunhuang dance course and related choreography and performances. These three schools are characterized by their own respective dance language system. In the analysis of dance forms from the perspective of choreoecology, Master Zi Huajun put forward that such analysis should be based on studies of the law of man’s body movement. The most underlying unit of dance form is its very starting point. According to Zi Huajun, “dance movement is the smallest morphological unit naturally classified of dance form.”1 Dance movement is composed of factors such as rhythm, breathing, steps, prominent motion parts, etc. In her analysis of the upper body (hand, forearm and upper arm) of the prominent parts2 (prominent motion parts) from the choreoecological perspective, Zi Huajun stated that “generally speaking, the absolute motion amplitude of the upper body is possibly larger other body parts. In people’s daily life, when engaged in activities such as working, attacking and defending, the upper body plays an irreplaceable role no matter people are bare-handed or handling tools. It is a symbol that has made man man, rather than animal. Among the upper body language, the most special one is gesture which is an important means to complement human languages. Compared to the more delicate and colorful facial expression, gesture is more externalized and able to enhance messages conveyed. These parts should not be overlooked in our observation and analysis of dance movement.”3 Based on above-mentioned understanding, the hand dance of Chinese Classical Dance studied here is defined as the hand dance form in the three schools of Chinese Classical Dance. There is dance movement of upper body in any type of dance. Hand dance refers to the hand dance form constituted by fingers, palms, and wrists. Meanwhile, movements formed by forearm, elbow, upper arm and shoulder are often related with dance movement of hand. In other words, hand dance refers to the dance movement led by hands, and with hand movement as means of expression and purpose of performance. All elements in the three schools of Chinese Classical Dance incorporated within the above-mentioned category are taken into consideration of this study. This belongs to the same category that Zi Huajun put forward as “upper body” in her choreoecology.
Certainly, the dance form of upper body in Chinese Classical Dance is particularly rich. As for those parts beyond the scope of direction leading, expressive function and performing purpose of hand dance, we can justifiably refer to them as arm dance or upper body dance.

Sample pages of Dance with Hands: Research of the Hand Dance in Chinese Classical Dances (ISBN:9787508533230) Sample pages of Dance with Hands: Research of the Hand Dance in Chinese Classical Dances (ISBN:9787508533230) Sample pages of Dance with Hands: Research of the Hand Dance in Chinese Classical Dances (ISBN:9787508533230)
Dance with Hands: Research of the Hand Dance in Chinese Classical Dances