'Hidden' ethnic arts come to fore at Beijing festival

By Chen Nan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-10-23 08:15:15

'Hidden' ethnic arts come to fore at Beijing festival

[Photo provided to China Daily]

Adapted from William Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet, the opera renamed the two main characters Zhuomei and A Luo and set the story against the background of Yi families.

Wearing ethnic costumes and dancing to the music played on ancient instruments such as the sheng (a wind instrument), the actor and actress talk of their tragic love through old Yi songs.

Intangible cultural heritage is also a highlight of the festival, including the Grand Song of the Dong ethnic group that has hundreds participating in a multi-layered musical performance without a conductor. The Dong people come from Southwest China's Guizhou province.

Also part of the festival is the Yangxi Opera from East China's Jiangxi province, which is an art form of the Tujia ethnic group, whose members perform it during ceremonies to commemorate their dead ancestors.

Initiated by the China Ethnic Groups' Association for the Performing Arts, the first festival was launched in 2007 and is held every three years in different cities.

Wu Jiang, deputy director of the founding body, says the festival also works as a forum to raise awareness among people about the development of such cultures in the country.

"Most of the traditional songs and dances are hidden in China's remote areas. Many of the folk musicians are old, and some of the music is at risk of dying out," Wu says.

"We hope the audiences see the beauty of ethnic arts and accept them in the mainstream performances' market."

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