When she’s not managing the museum’s Fellows membership program, development associate Ching Jen Lum is throwing pottery and studying dance. For the last three and a half years Lum has taken ceramics classes at the Honolulu Museum of Art School, and for more than 20 years she has studied with the Phoenix Dance Chamber—a cultural appreciation organization that offers education and performances in Chinese folk, classical and modern dances. In fact, Lum will take stage at ARTafterDARK on June 24, when the Phoenix Dance Chamber performs.
Through Phoenix, Lum has had the opportunity to visit dance academies and remote villages throughout China to learn dances from China’s many minority groups. For her staff pick, Lum chose not something from the museum collection, but works on view in Art in a Time of Chaos.
“I’m drawn to the two groups of funeral figurines in Art in the Time of Chaos because they directly correlate to many of the dances I’ve learned with the Phoenix Dance Chamber. We’re a dance group that performs Chinese folk dance. We study dances from 56 minority groups in China, which all have their own style and flavor.
“On one side of the gallery are the figurines found in the North. Their bodies are upright, their stances are wide, and they’re dressed in armor and ready for battle. We’ll be performing a Mongolian dance at ARTafterDARK and the movements are similar to how the figurines look. The dance requires you to straighten your back, keep your chest open, chin up, gaze far out into the distance as if you’re looking out into the grasslands, and the movements are quicker, bolder, and bigger.
“On the other side of the gallery are figurines from the South, which are mostly of female figures. Some of them are seated, their arms and legs are much closer to the body and they look relaxed, which is reflective of the more peaceful and tranquil time period that they experienced. Another dance that we’re performing is one that you would see in an imperial court, performed for the emperor or dignitaries for example. The dance consists of only women, we wear costumes with long sleeves and we have to consciously slouch a little. The movements are more fluid, softer, and we take much smaller steps.
“For me these figurines give me a better understanding of our dances, and to be able to tie it back to the 3rd to 6th centuries makes me feel like we’re bringing a part of history to life!”
Watch the Phoenix Dance Chamber perform this Friday, June 24 at ARTafterDARK: Art in a Time of Chaos.