Dance in Queens, Introducing Ling Tang

Queens is the most culturally diverse county in the United States and 138 languages are spoken in the county. The Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts’ programs target the 2.2 mIMG_2108illion Queens’ residents, where 55% speak a language other than English at home.

This summer, we’ve been proud to launch our Dance in Queens series, a 6-part series that explores Queens’ immigration and the arts.

This week, we’d like to introduce you to Ling Tang, who is a Teaching Artist at Flushing Town Hall and who will lead our second session on Chinese immigration and dance tomorrow, on July 16th.

In addition to Flushing Town Hall, Ling Tang currently teaches dance through China Institute and Young Audiences. She has also taugIMG_1562ht at Washington Performing Arts Society and Chinese American Community Center in Delaware. You can learn more about her at http://www.flushingtownhall.org/lingtang

Flushing is home to NYC’s Mandarin speaking community from Taiwan and mainland China (as opposed to the largely Cantonese speaking community in Manhattan).

What will you discuss in your workshop?

I will discuss the Chinese community in New York City and Queens in particular, from the historical, cultural and linguistic points of view. I will also share my own immigration journey from China to the U.S. as a dancer, teacher and arts manager. The second half of the workshop will focus on Chinese dance.

Just like the Chinese language, Chinese dance has its own unique vocabulary and structure. From my demonstrations with costumes and props, participants will learn about the history and development of Chinese dance and the dance exchange between China and the U.S.

How sizeable is the Chinese population in New York City and how has it evolved in recent years?

New York City has the nation’s largest Chinese American population, with an estimated of 557,862 individuals according to 2013’s statistics. In recent years, the skyrocketing rents of Manhattan Chinatown have pushed many Chinese immigrants to Queens and Brooklyn. Flushing Chinatown is one of the largest and fastest growing ethnic Chinese enclaves outside of Asia as well as within New York City.

Before 1970s, Cantonese immigrants had dominated Manhattan’s Chinatown. Later, Taiwanese immigrants became the first wave of Mandarin speaking immigrants to arrive in New York City who chose to settle in Flushing instead. Over the years, many new Mandarin speaking Chinese immigrants from different regions of Mainland China started to arrive in Flushing that gradually replaced Little Taipei.

As a Teaching Artist, I have witnessed the increasing demand of giving Chinese dance performances, workshops or residencies at schools and communities. I believe it is important to teach an arts form in its cultural context; living in New York City has such advantage. Besides Chinese dance, I also offer immersive Chinese language and arts programs to prepare U.S. students to study in China or experience its culture. Taking students on Chinatown field trips is fun. They enjoy eating Chinese food in street vendor style; some adventurers found chicken feet are indeed quite delicious!

What do you hope participants learn during your session?

When I mention Chinese dance to American audience, people often have the impression of dragon dance or Kung Fu, something they might have captured from a Chinatown parade or movie. In fact, China is an enormous nation (with an area of 3,704,4272 square miles and a popula­tion of over one and a quar­ter billion people!).

With its wide variety of climates and vegetation, and its 56 differ­ent ethnic groups, this coun­try has a rich tradition of arts and culture. It also has about as many languages as there are ethnic groups. From observing and trying out some movements themselves, I hope my participants will refresh their impression on Chinese dance, be open to discuss the diverse aspects of Chinese culture and community. 

What dance styles will you display?

I will introduce the two general categories of traditional Chinese dance: classical dance (gu dian wu) and folk dance (min jian wu). The movements of classical dance are formed by single gestures, assimilat­ing specific movements of martial arts, acrobat­ics, Tai Chi, and Peking Opera. Classical dance represents China’s long histo­ry, its beliefs and philosophies. Like the U.S., China is also a nation of many different nationalities.

There are 56 different ethnic groups in China, and each has its own history, language, tradi­tion, and style of dance. During the workshop, I will demonstrate movements of Mongolian, Dai, and Han nationalities with props such as water sleeves, silk fans, silk ribbons, hand­kerchiefs, chopsticks, etc.

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