Young dance group helps an­cient tale take flight

Shanghai Daily - - CULTURE - Xu Wei

DANCE drama “Jing­wei,” which com­bines el­e­ments of folk art, Western the­ater and the lat­est tech­nol­ogy, has had a suc­cess­ful de­but in Shang­hai and is soon to tour venues in the Yangtze River Delta re­gion.

Based on the Chi­nese mythol­ogy of Jing­wei, a myth­i­cal bird that is de­ter­mined to fill up the sea with peb­bles, it has seven chap­ters that tell a story of sac­ri­fice, love and faith.

The myth­i­cal bird was trans­formed from Yan Em­peror’s daugh­ter Nuwa, who was drowned in the sea.

She never yields in the face of seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble odds to fight against the evil dragon and save the world.

The orig­i­nal story is recorded in the “Clas­sic of Moun­tains and Seas,” an an­cient Chi­nese com­pi­la­tion of myth and mythic ge­og­ra­phy.

Di­rec­tor Xu Kai said that the orig­i­nal story pro­vided the com­pany with a large space to al­low for imag­i­na­tion and cre­ation.

“It is a well-known Chi­nese story,” said Xu. “But mod­ern stage tech­nolo­gies and fash­ion­able el­e­ments will bring new vi­tal­ity and charm to the story.”

The spec­tac­u­lar piece was cre­ated by a team from the post80s gen­er­a­tion.

With their in­no­va­tive per­spec­tives, they tried to give a new in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the an­cient Chi­nese myth.

The av­er­age age of the dancers with the Jiangsu Yancheng Dance Drama The­ater is un­der 20. They per­formed on a slop­ing stage to al­low the au­di­ence a bet­ter view.

It was a chal­lenge just to keep bal­ance. Al­though slop­ing stages can be found in some Western the­aters, it is very new to the young Chi­nese dancers. It took a lot of prac­tice.

The mu­sic of the dance drama is a fu­sion of Western sym­phony and Chi­nese folk in­stru­ments. Ac­cord­ing to com­poser Wang Ji­wei, the story of Jing­wei is an epic.

An en­thu­si­ast about the works of Ger­man film score com­poser Hans Zim­mer, he de­cided to com­bine Ori­en­tal and Western mu­sic styles in the pro­duc­tion.

An­other high­light of the drama is the ap­pli­ca­tion of Jin­shan farmer paint­ing in its sets.

The folk art form of Jin­shan farmer paint­ing is one of the city’s renowned in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage items.

The paint­ings usu­ally boast strik­ing col­ors and bright de­pic­tions of ru­ral life in Jin­shan, a sub­ur­ban dis­trict of Shang­hai.

Over the pass­ing years, many paint­ings in this style have been given as diplo­matic gifts and dis­played in museums world­wide.

The drama gath­ered seven vet­eran painters to cre­ate 15 paint­ings telling the story of Jing­wei.

All the paint­ings were holo­graph­i­cally pro­jected in 3D on stage, adding a ro­man­tic and fan­tas­tic fla­vor to the scenes.

“Jin­shan farmer paint­ing ap­peals to me with its style of Im­pres­sion­ism and strik­ing color,” said Xu. “The paint­ings have tridi­men­sional dis­play on the stage as vis­ually im­pelling sets. I hope one day the folk art form will be­come a fash­ion among the pub­lic.”

It took the team six months to cre­ate the drama.

In Xu’s eyes, tech­nol­ogy is a sup­ple­ment to the drama, but it should not be ex­ces­sively used oth­er­wise the orig­i­nal charm of a dance drama would be eclipsed.

The drama will reach a wider au­di­ence over the next few months as the com­pany put on per­for­mances in Shang­hai’s neigh­bor­ing prov­inces.

Dance drama “Jing­wei”

Jin­shan farmer paint­ing is used in the drama’s sets.

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