The Beard Movement
No longer relegated to the realm of sports figures, the “Fear the Beard” movement has spread to the stage.
We realized this hairy situation at the recent classical Chinese dance competition, as we faced the unshaven truth. Shen Yun dancers performed a mosaic of themes—poets and scholars, warriors and emperors. But no matter who they portrayed from what dynasty, nearly all male competitors possessed the same distinguishing feature: BEARDS.
Looking back, the fad actually started in 2010, during New Tang Dynasty Television’s Fourth International Classical Chinese Dance Competition. Of 16 male finalists, five sported temporary mustaches and beards. Prominent Shen Yun dancers like Tim Wu, and Tony Xue set a precedent. Little did they know that they were paving the way for a new trend, now dubbed: “the Beard Movement.”
This year, the number of beards on stage more than doubled—13 out of the 20 male contestants were graced with facial hair, bristling with an assortment of goatees, mustaches, and whiskers.
But how do you spin and flip five feet off the ground with all that hair whipping in your face? This remains an enigma to us female dancers, because we’re always trying to keep hair out of our faces, coiling it into a bun and clipping down any rebellious strands.
So what accounts for this inexplicable attraction to facial hair? Maybe… it’s to look older? Or to add some flair?
Whatever it is, one thing we do know is that back in the day, beards were popular amongst Chinese men. A well-groomed beard indicated refinement and wisdom. It is therefore essential in portraying distinguished historical figures.
Take, for example, Su Shi and Li Bai. Two of China’s most accomplished poets, they are often depicted gazing toward the heavens, contemplating the mysteries of the universe— wine goblet in one hand, stroking their whiskers with the other. This explains why beard-stroking is a signature move in the dance routines of Rocky Liao (as Su Shi) and Chad Chen (as Li Bai).
A historical figure with one of the most famous beards was General Guan Yu, also known as Guan Yunchang.
Now, Mr. Guan was not your average guy. According to the classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, he loomed at an astonishing height of ten feet, had rosy cheeks, bushy eyebrows, and a full-grown beard that dangled down to his chest. His beard probably flew around like crazy, creating storms of dust that blinded his enemies.
While Jeff’s beard may not be comparable to those in the Beard and Moustache World Championships, it’s still pretty impressive to dance with that. All that hair definitely adds to the technical difficulty of his piece. His beard has pushed the Beard Movement to a whole new frontier.
Which is your favorite beard? Would you like to try on any of these?
Written together with fellow Shen Yun dancer Ashley Wei.
December 8, 2012