Video feature: Martial arts takes a 'Journey Beyond the West'

Martial Arts Nathan Lam

This spring, Princeton University students worked with guest martial artist Scott Parker and Senior Lecturer in Dance Rebecca Lazier to perform a martial arts musical fantasy, the first of its kind at Princeton. In this video, rising sophomore Nathan Lam, seen here as Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, talks about how cast members prepared for their roles.

Video stills from Danielle Alio, Office of Communications

Princeton's Lewis Center for the Arts offered an Atelier and dance course this past spring in which students learned the martial art of wushu to perform an act from composer Fred Ho's "Journey Beyond the West: The New Adventures of Monkey," a martial arts musical fantasy.

The Princeton Atelier program brings professional artists to campus to work with students, and the course was taught by Scott Parker, a martial artist and performer, and Rebecca Lazier, a senior lecturer in dance. Incorporationg a variety of global musical and cultural influences, "Journey Beyond the West" is a reimagining of the Chinese epic "Journey to the West."

Wushu is a contemporary form of Chinese martial arts with roots in defense, offense and health.

"In wushu, we bring out more of the performance quality to the forefront and this is perfect for stage, performance and competition," Parker said.

The students in the course had a wide range of martial arts abilities, from beginner to expert.

"I saw this on the course list, and I thought this is a dream class for me," said Edward Leung, a rising junior majoring in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. "I always wanted to do wushu, but I never had the opportunity to explore it before college. I love the cross-genre aspect of this class, because it fuses music as well as sociology, anthropology and wushu into this 35-minute act."

According to Lazier, "Journey Beyond the West" is unique.

"This is the first time anything like this has been done at Princeton both in terms of inclusion of martial arts in a choreographic setting within the Lewis Center for the Arts, and then taking something that is such a dynamic intersection of many different cultures and bringing it to life," Lazier said.

Students, faculty and a guest martial artist discuss how they staged the martial arts musical fantasy "Journey Beyond the West: The New Adventures of Monkey." (Video by Danielle Alio, Office of Communications)