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Daily Helping for February 2nd, 2021 – Bi Ying

A photo of dancer Bi Ying mid-performance, holding her fan in front of her face.

So far in this challenge, I’ve resisted featuring artworks that were performed as part of a reality show competition, a la [insert country here]’s Got Talent. To be honest, I’m not really sure where this aversion is coming from. There’s a lot of incredibly talented and unique artists who perform on these types of shows. And especially now, with all cultural sites in Paris closed, YouTube is my primary source for daily helpings. There are a lot of those types of videos available on YouTube, so it would definitely make things easier. And yet, for some reason, my brain says no. And since this entire challenge is based on arbitrary rules that I made up for myself, I’m going with it. For now. That being said, I’m making an exception today for this performance by Chinese dancer Bi Ying.

Yes, this video is clearly labelled as being from a dance competition. But the recording is more C-SPAN than slickly produced television show, so I felt compelled to check it out. As I watched, I became fascinated by what I was seeing vs what was written in the notes below. This number is billed as a classical Chinese dance, and yet to me, this number feels incredibly contemporary. From the music to the way Bi Ying moves, nothing about it comes off as classical in my eyes.

That being said, I’m very much aware that my eyes are watching this video from a North American viewpoint. I still know very little about Asian art in general, let alone what classifies as classical Chinese dance, so I decided to do a little digging to see if I could learn more. Unfortunately, if I’m being honest, that digging wasn’t very helpful. Every search I did for “Chinese classical dance” or “What is classical Chinese dance?” led me to videos and explainers that looked nothing like this video. So now I’m even more intrigued. I’m going to continue looking into this, but if anyone has any insight, please feel free to reach out.

One last note. The way that Bi Ying manipulates that ribbon is positively hypnotizing. Absolutely exquisite.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!