Hamilton grad competes as classical Chinese dancer - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Hamilton grad competes as classical Chinese dancer

July 10th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Hamilton grad competes as classical Chinese dancer

By Coty Dolores Miranda


Monet Tan was a mere toddler when she peeked in the door of a dance class her older sister Sammi was attending.

Becoming enchanted with the graceful movements and colorful costumes, the Hamilton High School grad decided right there she would also dance.

And, starting at age 6, she has.

An incoming Arizona State University freshman enrolled in the Barrett Honors College, Tan is a competitive dancer who specializes in Chinese classical dance.

As a longtime dance student at Chandler’s Arizona Art Academy (formerly the Chinese Art Academy), Tan learned three styles of Chinese dance: folk, ethnic and classical.

But it is the flowing grace of Chinese classic dance that captured her heart.

Late last month, Tan competed at the 2018 Cathy Roe’s Ultimate National Dance Competition in Cincinnati, her first trip to the nationals. She’d been invited after her success at the regional level in February.

“I performed in the local competition here in Arizona, where I received the Ultimate Elite Champion, MC’s Choice Award and first place in Senior Solo category,” said Tan.

The recipient of several scholarships, including the Ford Motors Honors Scholarship and IMPACT Chandler Scholars Program scholarship, Tan graduated in the top 4 percentile of her class in May.

At the regional and national competitions, Tan performed an original dance piece called “Cloud.”

“It tells the story of a girl who dreams of dancing on the clouds,” she said. “The light movements reflect the imagery of stepping on clouds, and the flowing dance adds to the smooth, delicate nature of the movements.

“My dance costume is a long, purple dress, which can be quite challenging to dance in. I have skillfully incorporated my dress throughout the dance in twirls, spins and even running.”

Tan considers classical dance a gift she shares not only in competitions, but with the community in various ways, including public performances and teaching at summer camps and two elementary schools, Robert and Danell Tarwater and Coronado.

“Chinese dance, rich in its conveyance of story and emotion, is a life-enhancing social and educational resource that inspires me to share my love for performing arts with my community,” the 18-year-old said.

“Classical Chinese dance incorporates a variety of techniques and props, such as fans, ribbons and long sleeves that create a dynamic performance.”

Her first solo, called “Xiao Wei Xiao Wei,” told of a little girl during the Tang Dynasty trying on her first pair of heels.

“The heels reflect the stereotypical Chinese traditions at the time when society believed women should have small feet – a phenomenon called lily feet – and should walk slowly,” she explained.

It is dancing, she says, that inspires her to work as a teacher’s assistant in Chinese immersion schools and to perform at community events that showcase Chinese culture.

“Teaching Chinese dance and choreographing a dance for not only the ASU Startalk Chinese Language Summer Camp, but also the two elementary schools and other summer camps, is such an amazing experience,” said Tan, who is also fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese.

“I love children. I just find them so very lovable and adorable, and I watch proudly as my students twirl their handkerchiefs in their closing ceremony and perform the choreography we worked so hard on for a couple weeks,” she said, adding:

“I’m delighted to bring the gift of performance arts – so critical to understanding diverse experiences and peoples, to a wide audience.”

Tam, who just completed a term as chair of the Chandler Mayor’s Youth Commission, said there’s no getting around pre-performance jitters. She says she’s learned how to work with it.

“To overcome any fear, I feel it is most pertinent for me to practice, practice and reflect,” she stated.

“On my performance dates, I like to go the location a couple hours earlier to familiarize myself with my surroundings. Then, after rehearsal, I reflect on how to adjust or accommodate to the stage shape or size to make my performance the best I can,” she said.

Bit unforeseen incidents can derail a performance.

She recounted how a Chinese New Year’s performance at Tempe Center for the Arts left no time for the stage crew to move risers and the accompanist’s piano.

“I had to make some impromptu changes to my dance to accommodate those conditions,” she recalled with a chuckle.

“I go to the competitions with the mindset of trying to win, but also to do my personal best.”

And though she says she doesn’t rely on talismans, there was once a time when they were helpful.

“Nerves are something everyone faces and it often causes people to make mistakes, but I feel these mistakes help me grow and develop into a stronger and better person.

“Yet, I started dancing at a young age, and I used to bring a little dragon keychain with me as my lucky charm. The dragon is my zodiac animal, and in China is a symbol of power, strength and good luck….I brought it along with me when I went to the national competition.”

Tan is quick to credit her longtime teacher at the Arizona Art Academy.

“Ms. Qiu has inspired me and taught me so much over the years. While instructing me, she often has demonstrations of movements which is a great help as I am a visual learner,” said Tan.

And there’s a great deal of self-learning, too.

“I often watch my dance videos from practice or competitions to reflect on my dance moves. Watching my own video always makes me happy because I see the improvements I’ve made.

“In addition, competitions allow me to meet a variety of outstanding dancers which not only broadens my horizons, but expands my knowledge. Performance onstage has not only developed my confidence as a dancer, but also my conviction as a leader in my school and community.”

As she begins preparation for ASU, where she is ensconced in the Leader’s Academy at W.P. Carey Business School, she outlines her plans to continue dance even with a heavy college schedule.

“I’m planning on joining a dance team or club on campus,” she said. “And I always find time to dance, even if it’s at home.”

She retains empathy for younger students who miss out on the arts and arts instruction.

“I find it frustrating that young people are being encouraged away from the arts to enter into science and artificial intelligences, she said.

“By offering more performing arts, it can serve as a catalyst to inspire young people to instill artistic creativity, and therefore achievement, into our community.”