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China Daily Website

Theatre academy opens to more foreigners

Updated: 2012-12-28 03:06
By Li Yao ( China Daily)

More foreigners are studying at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts.

They come from more than 20 countries, including Canada, the United States, Italy, India and Singapore.

The number of foreign students has risen from a few dozen in 2008 to more than 250 in 2012, and the academy will keep the number close to 300 in coming years, said Lin Yi, head of its international office.

From teenage students to those in their 70s, foreigners have applied for a variety of programs, lasting from just two months to several years, Lin said.

Many of those studying Chinese folk operas, mostly Peking Opera, have had formal training in drama performance in their home countries. Such a background helps them pick up the new genre smoothly, she said.

Proficiency in Chinese is not mandatory, as a teaching assistant interprets during the classes, Lin said.

The admission of foreign students follows a rigorous selection process. The academy sometimes suggests applicants stay and study Chinese language and culture for some time, before they decide to focus on a certain opera genre, she said.

Foreign alumni have become key figures promoting Chinese culture in their home countries. Some have launched courses on Chinese theater arts at universities, while others have organized exhibitions of their works, combining foreign folk tales and Chinese opera performances.

In 2009, the academy, in cooperation with Binghamton University in New York, opened the world's first and only Confucius Institute of Chinese Opera. The institute introduces traditional Chinese opera arts, and spreads Chinese language and culture.

It has organized performances and basic courses to reach out to US communities, teaching children about Peking Opera and inviting audience members to interact with performers.

Encouraged by the institute's success, the academy is considering launching others overseas, but details remain undecided, Lin said.