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Thursday 19 July 2018
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Dai Ailian Mother of Chinese Ballet and Chinese Modern Dance

Many citizens of Trinidad and Tobago are patently unaware of dance icon Madame Dai Ailian. Soon that is about to change as, by next year, there will be a full theatre production on her life, to be staged in NAPA and other venues throughout the island according to Adrian Isaac, chair of the Dai Ailian Foundation (DAF) at a press conference last Friday.

The Dai Ailian Foundation was set up to honour the life and accomplishments of Madame Dai Ailian. Dai Ailian was born in Couva, Trinidad in 1916 and began taking steps towards her illustrous dance career by the age of five. According to Ailian herself, she was not aware she wanted a career in dance or could not pin point the exact moment when she realised she was a dancer; all she knew was that being in Trinidad, with Carnival, she always loved to dance.

She eventually began learning ballet here in Trinidad before migrating to London to study under renowned instructors at the age of 14. By 23 she moved to China, knowing only English, and would later become the “Mother of Chinese Ballet and Chinese Modern Dance.”

His Excellency Huang Zingyuan, Ambassador for the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) was present at the press conference and spoke highly of the contributions Ailian made to the PRC

and how this production will give other people, especially Trinbagonians, the opportunity to know of the contributions one of their own has made to the international world of dance.

“We all know the famous saying: Art is a universal language,” he said. “Artists hold peoples minds and souls and are unofficial ambassadors.”

The idea of this production came from the family of Anya Reyes, the 2012/2013 Dai Ailian Foundation Scholarship Awardee. The Theatre Production on Madame Dai’s life was conceptualised by her family, Kith and Kin Productions, to be a dramatic expression of her professional achievement and personal life. It is envisioned that through this production there will be a greater awareness of this Trinidadian, Dai Ailian, and her international achievements. After discussions with His Excellency, it was decided that the production be part of the recognition of the 40th anniversary of bilateral relations between PRC and TT next year. The production is now a joint collaboration between the embassy, the Ministry for the Arts and Multiculturalism, Kith and Kin and the Dai Ailian Foundation.

Nicha Selvon-Ramkissoon, of Kith and Kin, stated that the dance theatre production is conceptualised along two main lines. “First we attempt to chronicle this woman’s amazing life of travel and talent from her early Trinbagonian beginnings to her rise as an ‘icon of Chinese folk dance’ and ‘pioneer of Chinese ballet;’ and second we are very keen to raise national and regional awareness of Dai’s international reputation, acclaim and contribution to the arts given the fact that she is so little known here in her birthplace.”

They were also given support and recommendations by the Chinese Ambassador and the Chinese Embassy on this project.

Madame Dai Ailian was the first director of the Central Ballet of China, now known as the National Ballet of China, as well as also co-founder of the Beijing Dance Academy and in 1982 was elected the vice chairman of the International Council for Dance of UNESCO. As a result of her iconic contributions in China, she has created a long standing bond between her adopted homeland and her birthplace, Trinidad. One of the members of Kith and Kin also stated that although it is not official, they have decided to name the production “Dai Ailian: Born to Dance.”

Dai Ailian died in February 2006 at the age of 89.


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