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Nations linked by dance

(China Daily)

10:57, June 02, 2013

Dai Ailian devoted her life to the development of Chinese dances. Han Yuan / For China Daily

Although Dai Ailian, the Trinidad-born doyenne of dance in China, passed away seven years ago, her spirit of exploring dance from different cultures continues to inspire exchanges between the people of China and Trinidad and Tobago.

Known as mother of Chinese dance, Dai spent her childhood in Trinidad with her family. A pioneer of Chinese dance, she combined the ballet she learned from the West with traditional Chinese folk dance. She devoted her life to introducing China's little-known ethnic traditions to the world.

In 2010, the Chinese ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago and local people of Chinese descent set up a foundation named after Dai Ailian to expand cultural exchange between China and the Caribbean nation.

Its first project was to sponsor talented dancers to study Chinese dance for a year at the Beijing Dance Academy, which was founded by Dai Ailian in 1954.

"Based on the special dance ties between the two countries, we hope to build a deeper cultural exchange. We will continue to provide full scholarship to dancers from Trinidad and Tobago," said Zhang Ping, director of the foreign cooperation and exchange center at the Beijing Dance Academy.

The first two dancers came to study in Beijing in 2011. They could attend any dance class that interested them. Both were given a dance mentor. The school also made a choreography on a Chinese folk dance for them to perform after they completed their yearlong studies.

Zhang said both of the first two dancers are talented because their homeland has a strong tradition of dance and singing.

When they returned to Trinidad, they were invited to perform Chinese folk dances on many important occasions, such as at their country's national day concert.

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