Bold dance drama impresses

By Han Bingbin ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-12-27 09:44:36

Bold dance drama impresses

In early August, the National Center for the Performing Arts pins down its program for the upcoming spring season that usually starts in early January.

This year, one exceptional performance was so good that NCPA's vice-director Deng Yijiang was persuaded to add it to the list in November. Red Sorghum, a dance drama based on Nobel literary prize-winner Mo Yan's novel of the same name, will be a blockbuster opener to the season.

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At this year's Wenhua Awards, which the Ministry of Culture established in 1991 to honor outstanding stage performances, Red Sorghum won three honors, picking up prizes for choreography, directing and the overall prize. It is the third dance drama ever awarded and the first in the history of the Qingdao Song and Dance Theater.

Taking place in a rural village in Shandong province, the story is narrated from the point of view of a young man who reminisces about his grandmother, Jiu'er. The story explores love, freedom and social disputes through the tangled relationships between the widowed distillery owner Jiu'er and a local bandit, and later their fight against the Japanese invaders.

Unlike many dance dramas that tend to fail to tell a story, Deng says, Red Sorghum is a rare piece of work that has successfully enhanced the dramatic conflict and clarified the relationships between characters through body language.

"The dramatic emotions in the original story are very heavy and explicit. It is therefore much easier for us to visualize them," says co-director Wang Ke.

This is the fourth dance drama that Wang has jointly directed with his partner Xu Rui. Despite being young and bold enough to want to tackle the difficult subject, Xu says, they found themselves shouldering unexpectedly heavy pressures given the fame of the novel, especially after Mo won the Nobel prize for literature.

They invited Mo to watch the show when it was performed in Qingdao, Shandong province. Mo had insisted that he would not comment nor give an interview. But Xu says Mo went backstage after the curtain call and told them the dance drama had faithfully demonstrated the spirit that he intended to show in his novel. "We are lucky that we didn't fall off the giant's shoulders," says Xu.

When asked why they chose such a classic story, the young directors say they are trying to advocate an attitude and consciousness about life.

That's why they've deliberately weakened the background of Japanese intrusion, whereas in the novel and the movie, it's an essential part of the plot. They didn't include images of Japanese soldiers, and nor did they attempt to explicitly represent the fighting scenes.

"It's not about war and a national complex. We only want to show how people can live with dignity, passion, obligation and freedom," says Xu.

"This is the point where this old-fashioned story resonates with a modern society spiritually."

If you go

7:30 pm,Jan 4 and 5.

Opera House, National Center for the Performing Arts, west of Tian'anmen Square.


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