Typhoon Dance Troupe blends popular dancing with traditional Chinese culture, showcases ethnic diversity


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Typhoon Dance Troupe performs traditional and popular dances.

Jamie Kim, Senior Staffer

Weinberg senior and Typhoon Dance Troupe co-President Angelica Wang grew up in Beijing and began learning ethnic dances from a young age. When she transferred to Northwestern, she hoped to connect with a community interested in traditional Chinese dances. Her search led her to Typhoon Dance Troupe

Typhoon aims to showcase the diverse cultures of Chinese ethnic groups through dance. The dance group has two divisions honing different styles. A traditional dance division preserves traditional Chinese choreography and aesthetics, while a popular dance division blends modern dance genres with traditional elements. 

Art Director Shushan Wu, a McCormick fifth-year graduate student, said Typhoon is beginner-friendly, with auditions resembling open classes. 

“We would like to encourage and inspire more (of the) young generation of people who (are) more interested in popular culture to focus more on traditional Chinese elements to help spread the culture,” she said. 

Dancers rehearse on a weekly basis, sometimes learning pieces beforehand and other times learning together. Before shows, the group conducts dress rehearsals and learns how to do hair and makeup properly. The group also records videos of every dance it practices, which Wu said  helps to include all participants, whether they are performing at an event or appearing in a video. 

Wu said Chinese pop, or “C-pop,” style influences Typhoon’s dances, as choreography is adapted from a popular performer to suit the number of dancers performing. Last year, Typhoon performed “Flying Apsaras” by dancer and former member of boyband EXO Lay Zhang.

“(C-pop artists) mix Chinese traditional instruments into the song, and that is actually a great starting point for us to choreograph the dance,” Wu said. 

McCormick senior Irina Cheng danced ballet for 14 years before enrolling at NU. While she decided not to pursue dance professionally, she said dance remains an integral part of her life.

Cheng said she became used to structuring her life around dance, so having another form of dance to pursue at NU was important to her. 

“I heard about Typhoon and thought it would be a nice way to continue dancing, but also connect to my heritage in a way that I haven’t had a chance to before,” Cheng said. 

Within Typhoon, Cheng specializes in traditional Chinese dance. She said members learn the techniques and dances of the Han ethnic group, as well as other ethnic groups including the Dai people of Yunnan province. 

Typhoon has performed at events like Celebrasia, Rock the Lake and the Chinese International Student Association’s New Year Show. The group’s annual spring quarter show incorporates 12 to 16 pieces selected based on skill levels, dancer interest and genre variation.  

Wang said that looking at dance from a historical perspective allows dancers to connect with their cultures and share their heritage with the wider NU community. 

“These different styles are imbued with the histories, aesthetics (and) values of many of the minority ethnic groups in China, so we really wanted to bring this to a more global stage through the dances,” Wang said. 

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