Young dance group helps ancient tale take flight
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.