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Making a song and dance about it

By Fang Aiqing | China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-15 08:02
Xu Guilian, a representative performer of Guozhuang dance in Benzilan town in Yunnan. [PHOTO BY FANG AIQING/CHINA DAILY]

Xu frequently lingered at weddings and other festival ceremonies with Guozhuang dance troupes in her youth, and learned the traditions from older generation of folk performers.

She was a gifted and fast learner. By the age of 40, she was able to master all the key skills and tunes, as well as the ancient Tibetan language that formed the lyrics.

One exciting facet of Guozhuang dance is the song "battles" that are held at local festivals like the Lasi, where villagers worship their mountain gods a few days after Spring Festival.

During the festival, local people gather together to compete in groups. A dance party like this can last for several days.

For competitors, the key is to react quickly-to give out a thread, or respond to what the others have thrown out. It's a test of wisdom, proficiency and life experience, Bukreng says.

When one group says they are leaving, the others would respond in song to persuade them to stay. When one group asks for help taking care of their family and friends, another would respond by agreeing and describing how well they intend to treat their loved ones.

Lively tunes keep people's spirits up late into the night. When a man asks for an introduction to a pretty young woman, others will set barriers in reply.

It can also be a time for personal expression. For example, when a singer's former lover is in the crowd, the performer may reveal their heartbreak, yearning or lingering affection through song.

But what happens when a team loses?

"They should be ashamed to hold their heads up," both Xu and Bukreng joke.

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