Attitudes, Six o’clocks, Tilts, Firebirds
Attitudes, Six o’clocks, Tilts, Firebirds. What is the connection between these words and pictures?
I have been a dancer for almost half my life now and let me share with you a little snippet of my journey. At the age of six, my mother enrolled me in traditional Chinese dancing. The picture above represents the start of my long journey. The beginning was dark and hard, like the boxed lines and chipped walls. There were two paths to be taken, the path through the door, or the path that brought you to the exit.
I decided to take the path forward and venture down the long hallway, to where I later found an unexpected home. Again, the route was straight and easy to handle, but narrow and bleak. It was not a place where you wanted to find yourself stranded at midnight. However, there was a flicker of hope and light at the end of the hall, a poster indicating the supposedly end results.
That end result you saw, well it was a type of false hope. It was the kind of hope that you believed to be true, despite what everyone else thought, but ended up stabbing you in the back. It was a hiccup in the road, a bend in the path, or a dip in the ditch, you could say. Another exit sign shows the way out, but the reflection of the light holds on tightly to your dreams. The empty chairs and the scruffed up paint is meant to represent the long and never ending nights in the studio working alone perfecting that one dance move for the performance the following day.
As you get over that rough patch in the grass, you realize you are closer to arriving where your final results are. You are so close that it seems unreal, but you proceed on. The path to success is a long path to take, but a rewarding one in the end, and you know that, so you keep pushing forward. The dark colors push you down, but that one bright light brings you up. There are spotlights that have to be shone and solos that have to be learned, but there are only so many available spots.
There are many people in my dance class, but only a few get those solos. The goals of a dancer is not only to be able to be a soloist, but also to be able to shine on stage despite the hardships you have faced. The bright background in comparison to the dark foreground is a good representation of that idea. Being dressed in brightly colored clothes shipped from China with elegant hair and crazy makeup is nothing compared to the moments on stage with those blinding lights and deafening music. The piles of junk on the table shows all the work and time put into a single choreographed dance.
Attitudes, six o’clocks, tilts, and firebirds are techniques learned to enhance the choreography of the dance. They add bursts of pride, flexibility, and confidence to traditional Chinese dancing. Dancers are always on display from the moment they step into the studio. The way you walk, talk, and move are judged. The lights over the dance floor enhance each dancer’s abilities and movements. At this stage in my dance journey, the confidence and ability levels have risen but there is still that daunting darkness that secretly creeps and hides in the darkest corners.
If you can dream it and you can believe in your dreams then you will achieve it. It’s a famous saying in the dance studio. In the eight years I have been involved in traditional Chinese dancing, I have experience a lot of ups and downs. I have had many injuries but also many shining moments on stage. This last picture in the “Attitudes, Six o’clocks, Tilts, Firebirds” series represents the achieved end result that I have been searching from the age of six. I started out in a dark and cold environment with my shy and extra quiet self, but as the years went on and the experiences build up, I have been able to step into the light. There are no shadows lurking the background waiting to engulf my self-esteem, except for my own shadow, and the light is shining brighter than ever. I am no longer struggling alone, but with a group of people I consider family and the environment is hotter than ever. Dance has always been a part of my life and will continue to be in the future.
This photograph is not in the series but I wanted to show one of the end results of my dance group, Mulan Dancers, after going through thick and thin together for a good eight years. And thank you to Teacher Dao Lan for allowing me to take pictures of her dance studio.
Lee, Pazao. All the photos above. February 20, 2017