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Dance drama celebrates heroic Chinese emperor

By Chen Nan | | Updated: 2017-06-21 15:01

Dance drama celebrates heroic Chinese emperor

A scene from King Yu [Photo provided to China Daily]

While there are many superhero movies playing in the local multiplex, Chinese dance drama director Wang Ge hopes to showcase Chinese heroes onstage.

In his latest work, King Yu, Wang tells the story of Emperor Yu, who tamed the flooded Yellow River by dredging and rearranging the channels, and launching the Xia Dynasty (c. 21st century-16th century BC), China's first dynasty.

The dance premiered in September at the annual Art Festival of Anhui Province, and later toured national wide at over 60 cities. It will make its debut at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing on June 21.

"Like many people of my generation, I grows up with the story of Emperor Yu, who, also known as Da Yu, is a legendary hero," says Wang in Beijing.

Born in Zigong, Sichuan province, the 42-year-old Wang graduated from the Beijing Dance Academy with a bachelor's degree in Chinese folk dance and a master's degree in choreography in 2000. He is an award-winning dancer-choreographer whose works have included Red Sorghum, staged in 2013, which was based on the novel Red Sorghum Clan by Nobel laureate Mo Yan.

"When I realized that young Chinese people are more fascinated by the Western superheroes than our own heroes, I felt sad. I want to make the story of Emperor Yu real and alive onstage again," says Wang.

About two years ago, the director started to develop the dance drama, along with Feng Shuangbai, president of the China Dancers Association, who wrote the script, and co-director Li Zhi.

Feng says the dance drama centers on the story from a Chinese tale, Da Yu Zhi Shui, or Great Yu Controls the Waters.

It opens with Da Yu's father, who failed to control the flooding and was punished by King Yao. Then Da Yu continued his father's mission and vowed to control the flood.

"We want to tell a convincing story about a real man, instead of a man from the book or legend," says the director Wang.

In their research, Wang found out that the location where Da Yu built the dams along the riverbank was Yuhui village, Bengbu city in Anhui province, according to evidence found by the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Science, about a decade ago.

So Wang invited over 30 dancers of Anhui province's Huagu Opera Song & Dance Theater to join in the dance drama. They brought local music and dance elements, such as Huangmei Opera, to the work.

Chinese dancers Jiang Wei, Luo Wenbo and Song Yulong respectively play the role of Da Yu, the wife and their son, Qi.

"The wife never meets her husband after he left for the great mission. She takes all the responsibilities in the family, like raising their son alone and farming the lands," says dancer Luo, who performs as Da Yu’s wife, Nyu Jiao. "Unlike my last performance as a strong and brave woman leading an entire group to fight against the enemies, this wife is soft by look but tough and independent inside."

If you go:

7:30 pm, June 21. NCPA, 2 West Chang’an Avenue, Xicheng district, Beijing. 010-6655-0000.

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