Danc­ing dama take on the world

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By XIN­HUA

Chen Guo­hua, 64, a lover of out­door square danc­ing, no longer wor­ries about find­ing a dance venue where she will not dis­turb the neigh­bors.

Chen and five other Chi­nese dama— mid­dle-aged or el­derly women — have per­formed for the past year in the 80-minute drama 50/60 Dance Theater with Dama, at Peng­hao Theater in down­town Bei­jing, and even per­formed on the in­ter­na­tional stage in Oc­to­ber’s Vie Fes­ti­val in Bologna, Italy.

“At first, we only took the play as a pas­time and a way of do­ing ex­er­cise. None of us ever an­tic­i­pated per­form­ing in Italy,” said Tian Ying, 63. “I think few re­tirees can do what we are do­ing now.”

From public squares to public the­aters, these dama are more than just square dancers who use sim­ple move­ments to go along with pop­u­lar songs. Their body lan­guage tells the story of a gen­er­a­tion of women born in the 1950s.

The chore­og­ra­phy in­cludes pieces of Bei­jing opera, ball­room danc­ing and even daily chores. Sim­ple but unique, the move­ments draw on modern Ger­man dance, ballet and Chi­nese folk dance.

All six per­form­ers were mem­bers of their com­mu­nity dance troupes for re­tired res­i­dents, but none had ever re­ceived pro­fes­sional train­ing.

It was Wang Meng­fan, a 26-year-old di­rec­tor, and her young team that led these danc­ing dama to the theater. “Square danc­ing in­tro­duced me to them and in­spired me,” Wang said.

While shoot­ing a doc­u­men­tary film about square danc­ing two years ago, Wang found that the danc­ing was only a small part of these women’s lives.

“They are beau­ti­ful in many ways,” Wang said. “The play presents dif­fer­ent facets of their beauty.”

The play pre­miered at the 6 th Bei­jing Nan lu­ogux­i­ang Per­form­ing

At first, we only took the play as a pas­time and a way of do­ing ex­er­cise. None of us ever an­tic­i­pated per­form­ing in Italy.” Tian Ying, 63-year-old re­tiree

Arts Fes­ti­val in Peng­hao Theater in July last year.

“It is an in­ter­est­ing idea to bring or­di­nary peo­ple, like these dama, into the theater,” said Xie Pang, PR man­ager of Peng­hao Theater. “The idea fits with Peng­hao’s aim to draw com­mon peo­ple nearer art. That’s why we in­cluded it in the fes­ti­val.”

As one of the lead­ing pri­vate the­aters in China, Peng­hao is pop­u­lar among young theater lovers, many of whom are theater stu­dents and well-ed­u­cated white-col­lar work­ers.

The tick­ets for these dama’s de­but sold out, and­due to pop­u­lar de­mand, they gave three more per­for­mances in Septem­ber last year.

At that time, Pi­etro Valenti, art di­rec­tor of Vie Fes­ti­val, was on a visit to Peng­hao, and on see­ing the play, he de­cided to in­vite them to per­form in Italy.

How­ever, the per­for­mance en­coun­tered dif­fi­cul­ties. Wang de­scribed it as “a ne­go­ti­a­tion be­tween the young 20-some­thing pro­fes­sion­als and the ag­ing am­a­teur per­form­ers”.

Re­hearsals started in March last year. At first, the el­derly per­form­ers did not un­der­stand Wang’s work and act­ing meth­ods. But grad­u­ally, they got the hang of the play, and were even able to of­fer some help­ful ad­vice to the pro­fes­sion­als. For sev­eral months, they prac­ticed for five or six hours a day.

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