Students inspired by celebrated Chinese dancer's fairy tale story

Celebrated Chinese dancer Huang Doudou recently inspired students at Soong Ching Ling School with his dance and life story that almost reads like a fairy tale.
Ti Gong

Huang Doudou interacts with students at Soong Ching Ling School.

Celebrated Chinese dancer Huang Doudou recently inspired students at Soong Ching Ling School with his dance and life story that almost reads like a fairy tale.

The 41-year-old was the speaker at the school’s third Soong Ching Ling Forum, a cultural program that invites scientists, cultural celebrities and industrial leaders into its campus to enable students to appreciate their innovative spirit, humanistic thoughts and a sense of mission.

The speech started with a video about Huang produced by Discovery Channel.

The audience was enthralled by the fabulous dance sequence in the video, and later Huang told students how tough it was for him to become a successful dancer.

He was rejected by dance school twice due to his “short legs.”

“A teacher at the school told my father, ‘a boy with short legs would never dance as a prince on the stage,’ which really upset my family,” he recalled.

Unperturbed, Huang’s father set about rectifying this by hanging him upside down every day for three months until his legs grew 3 centimeters longer. And three years after his initial rejection he was enrolled into a Shanghai dance school. Unfortunately, he found himself left on the sidelines at the dance school because he was still a little too short.

The setback didn’t put him off and he practiced even harder to become a good solo dancer. Huang made a list of famous dance competitions in China and swore to win them all by the age of 30. He achieved the task by the age of 21.

Huang confessed, however, that he had thought about giving up.

“Especially when it was in chilly winter,” he said. “I had wished that our teacher would not appear one day so that I did not have to get out of my warm bed. But unfortunately, or fortunately, our teacher always appeared and urged us to get up and practice.

“So you see, you must be able to endure the pain and persist with your dream to become successful.”

He also told students to build up a team spirit at dance school, as the routine that helped shoot him to fame was actually a group dance. Huang danced on a drum held by more than 30 other dancers.

“We practiced for three months,” he reflected. “They held the drum every day to help me gradually forge the ability to stand, walk and dance on it. Later people recognize me on street and called me the dancer on a drum. I could not have danced without the help of those who held the drum.”

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Huang Doudou interacts with students at Soong Ching Ling School after the speech.

Huang also shared some of the stories behind his successful performances, including the dance of Chinese kung fu at the closing ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

They had no chance to rehearse on the glass stage, prior to the show, which was dangerous for dancers.

Fortunately, one of the dancers had hypoglycemia and always carried a bottle of cola. They poured the cola on the surface and stamped on it with their shoes so that the sugar in the drink would help them stick on the glass.

“We estimated that it could only help us for more than a minute as the liquid would dry quickly when we danced,” he said. “But the dance lasted for three minutes. So the rest of time, we had to be extremely careful with our solid dancing skills, tacit cooperation and the love for our country.”

Huang was also famous for his role as a choreographer in the opera “The First Emperor,” which debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 2006.

“It was the first time I got to see how big the world is,” he said. “When I was in China I did not think much about our culture. But in New York I had the chance to think about Chinese culture from a new angle and about how to express it with dance. I found Chinese culture is really unique with thousands of years of history and I made up my mind to promote Chinese dance all my life.”

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Huang Doudou gives a speech at Soong Ching Ling School.

When he got the chance to participate in “The First Emperor,” he was glad to integrate Chinese dance into Western opera.

In the opera, he taught his new foreign friends Chinese dance and etiquette, such as how the nobles should curtsy to the emperor.

“All of the dancers dressed up as terra-cotta warriors and played the roles of people 2,000 years ago in China. It was really meaningful for me,” said Huang.

It didn’t all go smoothly for Huang as he encountered a few difficulties during rehearsals. The chorus and actors found it difficult to change their formation during the performance.

Eventually, he used the formation of the go game, in which the chorus represented black and actors represented white. “It helped them understand quickly and also give the performance a Chinese flavor,” said Huang.

He also shared his volunteer experiences, such as performing for people in remote poor areas, children in special educational schools and soldiers at border areas.

Huang said he had dreamt of being a soldier when he was a child and in one such voluntary performance he realized his dream as he designed a dance “Defend the Yellow River” to perform with real soldiers.

Huang took off his shoes and bowed to the audience at the end of his talk.

“The curtain call means respect for audience,” he said.

“Although this is a speech, I took it as serious as a performance because I am a dancer.”

After the speech, Huang observed the students dance and gave them tips for the future to draw the curtain on an inspiring day.

Ti Gong

A student raises a question to Huang Doudou at the Soong Ching Ling Forum.

Ti Gong

Soong Ching Ling School students give a warm welcome to Huang Doudou.

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