Prior to the wushu workshop, I have had some wushu elements incorporated into dance pieces. I had done a series called wushudance during my uni days for the hostel where I stayed. I even incorporated some hiphop elements in the dance. So going into this workshop I was looking for any elements that I can bring into dance choreography. So looking at this workshop from a general choreographic perspective.
The 1st lesson was mostly an introduction of the different forms of wushu. There are two schools one is the more traditional form and the other the more modern form of today which is mainly geared towards competition. Subsequent lessons were focused on learning the routines with the swords.
We were introduced to different weapons used in wushu training. Different shapes of swords serve different functions and have different styles of movements to cater to them.
Long straight sword is used further away from the body whereas the curved knife is used closer and around the body. The long sword is double edged whereas the curved knife is only one sided. The decorative cloths or tassels also had a practical functionality for the people in the past. Like the cloth is used to wrap around the hand and wrist to make holding easier and longer even when they are tired. The colors of the cloths signified which clan they are from.
We learned the traditional form of wushu using the sword which was slower and had more pauses. Whereas the newer form of wushu was more flowy, faster movement and elements into the routine.
The teacher taught us different sets of routines using the long sword. I liked how the movements were not too slow and had a flow from one to another. The routines we learned had various different poses and movements all with their own specific forms however they all started to feel a bit similar to me after we kept on adding more movements. That’s why in the video I look confused by the end.
Wushu and dance
What was interesting for me was that the teacher said that as years went by the competition pieces became more elaborate and even veered nearer to dance style. Even the costumes worn during competitions in recent years have departed away from the very traditional costumes to designs with dragons, flowers and other patterns.
Judging of competitions in Singapore is a few years behind China. Singapore was still using the old system compared to China which has already moved on to a new format. So some questions come to mind. Do we use China as the benchmark for competitions? If so why not change the system as soon as China changed it? The older generations preferred to use the old system and are resistant to change. Is that why everything is slower in Singapore?
During the series of workshops, I have come to appreciate that although wushu and dance are very different art forms, there is a sense that it is more accepted nowadays for wushu to have some dance elements in performance pieces as well as for competitions. So if such a traditional art form can start to accept changes and modernize its style, we can also have that in Chinese dance!