Hua-gu-deng: The 'Flower Drum Lantern’ Dance
From the Huai River Valley in eastern China comes Hua-gu-deng, one of the oldest and most representative folk dance styles of the Han Chinese.
Situated between the Yangtze River above and the Yellow River below, the Huai River and its surrounding community fuses the best of China’s northern and southern subcultures. Hua-gu-deng dancing can thus be both bold and unconstrained as in the north, or elegant and gentle as in the south.
Its unique dramatic elements and special musical accompaniment help make Hua-gu-deng one of China’s richest dance forms. It is often accompanied by percussion instruments creating lively and festive rhythms: typically a combination of the gong, cymbals, and flower drums.
Intricate dance combinations blend fast and slow, small and big movements to reveal a wide range of emotions. Dancers must pull off difficult balancing, jumping, spinning, and tumbling techniques. They may also use various props, including flower-drums, fans, umbrellas, and handkerchiefs.
Traditionally in the Huai River Valley, Hua-gu-deng was performed from the end of the season’s harvest until the start of the new planting season the following spring. And a bountiful crop was the best reason to rejoice.
Over time, Hua-gu-deng also became part of many other celebrations. The most extravagant performances were held at temple fairs and Lunar New Year festivals. A Hua-gu-deng show contained multiple song and dance pieces, often including instrumental segments and playlets.
In Shen Yun’s Hua-gu-deng-style Happiness in the Huai Valley (2012), young farmers from two villages unite in the lively folk dance, teasing and challenging each other along the way.
January 11, 2011