Folk Art PA

Master: Chen-Yu Tsuei

Apprentice: Erica Leyder
Art Form: Traditional Chinese dDance and Arts

The goal of this this Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship was for Leyder to learn advanced traditional Chinese dance techniques and aesthetics and to further understand the associated culture by studying Chinese dance history. Chinese dance can be traced back to 4000 B.C. in the form of ritual worship and by 2008 B.C, during the Shang dynasty, Chinese dance was enriched with music. During the Chou dynast, dance and music became part of educational activities and during the Tang dynasty, considered a Golden Age, Chinese dance had developed to the virtuoso level and the fine tradition that has continued until present times. There are two types of Chinese dance: classical (imperial) style and folk style, both split into male and female movements.

Erica Leyder is a student at the Chinese Cultural & Arts Institute. She was born in the Jianqxi Province of China and was adopted by an American family when she was 7 months old. She started Chinese dance classes when she was four years old. Through her work with Tsuei, she has been able to connect to her birth culture: "This apprenticeship has helped me grow and understand the cultural roots that I have and would never experience because of being adopted, if it wasn't for the relationship that I have with Miss Chen-Yu." She greatly enjoyed taking dance classes with Tsuei, particularly because she was given the opportunity to dance with various traditional props, such as fans, ribbons, jingle sticks, and different drums, as well as the wonderfully beautiful authentic costumes for each dance. She says of her experience, "I have never been so proud of my heritage than now, due to my involvement with Master Tsuei."

Chen-Yu Tsuei has studied traditional Chinese dance since she was five years old. Growing up in Taiwan, she avoided mainland China's Cultural Revolution, which prohibited many traditional arts, making it possible for her to practice dance throughout her childhood. Therefore, this opportunity to teach traditional dance is very important to Tsuei, "With the Cultural Revolution, a lot of traditional culture and arts was wiped out. With this, some Chinese cultural dance has combined elements of Western dance into it. I am able to show the Apprentice, and have her know the difference between truly traditional Chinese dance and the Westernized version that you will see frequently online." She studied at the National Institute of the Arts in Taiwan and then continued her education at Julliard in New York City. Since moving to Harrisburg, Tsuei has become an active member and leader of the Central Pennsylvania Chinese Association (CPCA), coordinating and choreographing their Chinese New Year's celebrations.