San Francisco High School of the Arts

Classical Chinese Dance

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Classical Chinese dance is one of the most comprehensive dance systems in the world. Through systematic training in dance fundamentals, flexibility, technical skills, and the unique element of shen yun, (or ‘bearing’), students come to master this exceptional classical form of art while exploring China’s cultural heritage. Our Chinese dance program is well-known in the bay area and many students have won numerous awards in national or world competitions in Chinese Dance. The Chinese dance faculty at high school of the arts all graduated from top Chinese dance institutes in Classical Chinese dance or Ethnic Dance degrees and are experienced dance educators.

Chinese Dance Curriculum

  • Dance Fundamentals I-IV
  • Bearing and Form I-IV
  • Tumbling

Dance Fundamentals teaches the building blocks of dance which include flexibility, posture, and strength. The students will learn the basic concepts and terminologies and develop a command of the fundamental techniques and dance movements. Students will train in the form of barre exercises, floor and center routines, and practicing technical skills. Establishing a solid foundation will enable students to perform the various techniques and movements of classical Chinese dance.

UC Approved: I-IV

Bearing, called "Shen Yun" (身韻) in Chinese, is one of the major components of classical Chinese dance. Bearing is a technique used for expressing specific inner feelings through form, or postures and movements in dance combinations and barre practice. Designed to train dancers to grasp the “feeling” or inner essence of Chinese dance, its system of routines emphasizes the coordination of breath, physical movement, and spirit, striking a balance between the physical and the spiritual.

UC Approved: I-IV UC Honors: IV

Tumbling skills are widely used in Classical Chinese Dance to enhance characterization and presentation. Students will train and learn to safely perform various acrobatic skills from entry-level, which include handstands, cartwheels, and walkovers, to advanced concepts such as aerial skills, flips, and combinations. This course relies on the students' practice to develop the strength and technique necessary to execute the more challenging flips properly.

  • Ethnic/Folk Dance
  • Repertoire
  • Flexibility

Chinese Ethnic/Folk Dances focus on learning the characteristics of the ethnic dances of the Chinese northeastern Yang Ge (秧歌) dance and the folk dances of the Han, Tibetan, and Mongolian ethnic groups. By developing a solid command of these folk dances’ moves and styles and learning the different bearing and rhythms, students can grasp the sincerity, humor, passion, values, and diversity that are demonstrated in these folk dances. The students will also learn to express through dance the belief that humankind is an integral part of nature – a belief widely held by many Eastern ethnicities and by the Chinese people in particular.

Students rehearse group dances with choreographers several times during the week. They learn proper spacing on a stage, different formations, various transitions, and train their expression. At the end of every school year, a dance recital is held.

Flexibility is the foundation of classical Chinese dance fundamentals. Without a high degree of mastery in flexibility, dancers cannot execute many basic movements much less the more advanced jumps and aerial techniques. Therefore flexibility is trained most intensely in the first few years of a dancer's education.

Chinese Dance Conservatory Faculty


Ms. Fengxuan Cao

Dance Teacher
In addition to serving as assistant principal, Ms. Cao teaches dance at High School of the Arts. She graduated from Beijing Dance Academy, the leading dance college in China, in 1997. Before she came to High School of the Arts, she was a choreographer with the Shen Yun Performing Arts Company.
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Mr. Brian Nieh

Operations Manager, Arts Coordinator, Dance Teacher
Mr. Nieh holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance production from Fei Tian College in New York. An artist growing up in a family of teachers and musicians, the concert pianist turned 3rd-place winning dancer (2009 NTDTV Dance Competition) trained and toured with Shen Yun Performing Arts for 10 years, performing in dozens of cities and countries around the world. He then returned to his alma mater for several years as an instructor, teaching a variety of subjects. In 2019, he took his talents to San Francisco to join HSArts in providing quality education in arts and academics.

Mr. Mike Lai

Dance Teacher
Mr. Lai graduated from Fei Tian Academy of the Arts in New York, and received a degree in Dance Pedagogy from Fei Tian College. He trained and performed with the world-renowned dance group Shen Yun for 5 years. He is an experienced choreographer and teacher of Classical Chinese Dance.

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