Spotlight: Chinese Silks FON, the Premier of Water Sleeves 

Spotlight: Chinese Silks FON, the Premier of Water Sleeves 
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The Festival of Nations (FON) is a renowned Townsend Harris tradition where different  students perform cultural dances. This year, one of the Chinese Silks FON performances will debut the use  of  water sleeves.

Water sleeves are often featured in traditional Chinese operas, with dancers making use of theirfluid-appearing nature to replicate the movement of water. This is especially important in conveying a theme of forgiveness, which FON leaders juniors Tiffany Lee and Sean Zhou have chosen to focus on. This contrasts from the flag performance of Chinese Silks FON, which is based off  a concept of revenge. Sean hopes that “people can see the red fury soften into a blue acceptance.” 

The distinctiveness of using water sleeves during FON is what prompted junior Josephine Chan to join. “I wanted to learn a dance that is traditional to my heritage. [Of] the many Chinese dances, I decided to choose water sleeves because I was the most drawn to the style,” she said. 

Leading a FON group for the first time, Sean said that a major challenge for water sleeve performers was distinguishing the performance  from the popular Chinese Feather Fan and Chinese Ribbon FONs. 

“I didn’t want to take this part of Chinese culture out of this year’s FON, so [after] being appointed the Feather Fan and Flag leaders last year, Tiffany and I made a transition to Silk FON,” Sean said. 

“Since Flag is fast and fierce, we needed a softer flowing Chinese dance to complement it, and since [the] flag is made of a silky fabric, we chose to label our new FON: Chinese Silks,” Tiffany said. 

When choreographing the dance movements, Sean noticed the Chinese water sleeve as having a soft and flowing style, making use of the whole body. “Moving the sleeves is not enough; the dance must be choreographed at different levels and engage footwork,” Sean said. “This type of dancing was closer to a technical ballet in comparison to other Chinese forms of dance,” Tiffany said. 

Both Sean and Tiffany were surprised at how many members were attracted to the new FON. “For a subcategory, water sleeves are a large group of nearly 30 people and very few other FONs have that many people in one dance,” Sean said. 

The intriguing novelty of water sleeves drew junior Stacey Jiang to partake in the dance. “A lot of my friends were joining, so I joined with them,” she said. 

FON is set to run from March 4 to March 5.

Photo by Classic Photography