The Peacock Dance was unlike anything I’ve ever studied in terms of the structure of the class and its movements compared to the styles that I’ve learned. I’ve always taken hip-hop, ballet, modern and contemporary dance classes where a group of students were taught by a single teacher. In Kunming, Dance class with my ISP instructor was one-on-one and we danced together, performing both Dai and Wa Chinese cultural dances.
For the first couple of days, my wrists and fingers were sore from all of the rotating and twisting involved in traditional Dai dance, but I still loved it. We practiced only the Peacock for the first four days, which according to my instructor, is considered the hardest of all Chinese dances. With Maddie’s assistance in translating for my instructor, I learned that it’s supposed to be a very shy dance, involving covering the face and facing away from the audience. I had a feeling this shyness would somewhat fit my personality, but what I really loved about the dance was the emphasis of the curved lines in the body. I loved the aesthetic of accentuating the body’s natural geometry, and I appreciate my instructor paying attention to every line of the body and small movement.
Having only five days of ISP time, I didn’t expect to be able to learn two entire dances. Despite this my instructor constantly insisted that I was a fast learner, a stark difference from my experiences with teachers in America. In those classes, I always felt slightly behind in learning choreography, mostly because I could see my classmates breezing through what I myself struggled with. But with only one teacher showing me every movement, I felt like I learned much faster and less pressured by the expectation of keeping up with my peers, mostly because I didn’t have any. It still felt rewarding that my instructor considered me a fast learner but I still had to work really hard to focus for that whole hour and a half every day to pick up everything that she said.
I think the best feeling during class was when I put on the full outfit, complete with a tropical flower in my hair. My instructor filmed and took photos of me performing the dance in full costume and I felt a unique sense of accomplishment that I had mastered such difficult choreography. The last day of class, my instructor made time to quickly teach me a Wa dance, another ethnic group in China. It was much more powerful and forceful, and I think a little difficult to transition into after four days of gentle and shy dancing. I think I enjoyed this dance a little more because it was slightly easier to learn and it felt more natural. My instructor was also able to record me performing in the full outfit and do a small photoshoot of that dance as well.
The most nerve-racking part of the experience, though, was the party we hosted for our homestay families on Saturday, where I first performed for an audience. I always get extremely nervous before performing, no matter how big or small the audience. Then, I found out I would be dancing in the small space in the program house, devoid of the spacious environment of my studio. Of course, everything went well, and I especially appreciated Snow Fox’s, my Mandarin teacher’s, giddiness and excitement when he saw me in my Dai outfit.
I had a whirlwind of a week, and felt a lot of different emotions in preparing myself for the performance, but I’m happy with how it turned out, and I think I made my instructor and, more importantly, myself proud.