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Back to life post-outbreak

By Xing Yi | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-10-03 09:39
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Performing artist Wu Yandan, known as Nunu Kong onstage, experiments with different props for her new dance Grew Up There. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The stage was covered in white rice and yellow corn. Two dancers rolled, spun and crawled, using their bodies to draw patterns of rectangles and circles over the "grain carpet". A large plasma screen, also on the stage, showed the scattered grains up close. In the aisles between audience seats, four musicians played the saxophone, viola, glockenspiel and guitar in long tones, repeating some sounds. The dancers repeated their movement, too.

The show was part of a performance titled Nourishing Life at the Shanghai International Dance Center Theater on Sept 18.

"We notice that people's minds and bodies are getting disconnected nowadays, and we cannot stay focused most of the time. We want to explore a way to get audiences to pay attention to their own consciousness," Yin Yi, the director of the dance, the fourth such act put up by the theater's Youth Incubation Platform, says.

Liu Ya'nan, the young choreographer of the dance, says the movements are from traditional martial arts and fitness exercises, such as wuqinxi (five animals mimic boxing) and baduanjin (eight silken movements).

"By repeating, we bring the mind back on the simple movement of the body," she says.

The show attracted many-the audience had filled half of the seats at the theater, the maximum allowed by the COVID-19 protocol. An audience cap was introduced by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism as a measure to prevent the spread of the disease when theaters reopened to the public in May after being shut for long. The seat quota was first set at 30 percent and then raised to 50 percent in August since the outbreak was brought largely under control in the country.

On the same night as the debut of Nourishing Life, the ministry issued revised guidelines allowing theaters to sell up to 75 percent of a venue's total seats.

Reopening theaters

The change has spurred a revival of performances in Shanghai-people are going back to theaters and artists have started to conceive new shows.

Wang Nana, a local resident, was one of around 150 people who watched the Sept 18 show. Before the dance started, she took a selfie with her friend one seat away from her-another social-distancing requirement for theater audiences since the outbreak.

"This is my first time back in theater since I watched Chen Peisi's drama in December," says Wang, who used to be frequent theaters earlier. "I also wanted to watch The Eternal Wave but the tickets were sold out quickly."

A range of shows, such as the coproduction between Britain's Punchdrunk International and China's SMG Live Sleep No More and the revolution-themed dance drama The Eternal Wave, are being welcomed by locals who are eager to get back to theater after long.

The 12th Lotus Awards, the only national awards for dance, hosted by Shanghai's Changning district this year, has brought eight troupes to the city competing for the finals while offering citizens the best of their performances. The shows, staged from Sept 16 through 21, included Sichuan-Tibet Tea Horse Road by performers of Sichuan province Song and Dance Theatre; Red Flag by Jilin Singing and Dancing Troupe; and Cavalryman by Inner Mongolia National Art Theater.

At Shanghai Oriental Art Center, a schedule of 129 performances for the 2020-21 season was released in September to mark its 15th anniversary. Renowned conductor Tan Dun will collaborate with folk music band Hanggai from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region to play a series of experimental pieces that mix rock with classical music on Oct 10. Pianist Lang Lang will play Bach's Goldberg Variations there on Dec 9.

At Shanghai Grand Theatre, Jin Xing Dance Theater will bring its longtime favorite repertoire Shanghai Tango and Wild Flower over Oct 15-18. Meng Jinghui Theatre Studio will perform its classic drama Rhinoceros in Love from Oct 29 to Nov 1.

After some 18 months of renovation, the refurbished Shanghai Concert Hall reopened this month and launched its new performance season on Sept 19 which will last through December, comprising 54 concerts as well as forums, art exhibitions and livestreams. Fang Jing, general manager of the concert hall, says the venue will open its doors to visitors even when there are no concerts, offering guided tours, afternoon tea parties and other cultural activities.

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