Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dynamic Yunnan – Search for Shangrila

We had asked Jialin if there were any cultural events that we could go to and she came up with one….a program called “Dynamic Yunnan” that described itself as “a fusion of traditional ethnic folk music and modern dance”.

It sounded like fun, so we decided to make it part of my birthday celebration.  We took a taxi to the performance hall and wondered if we would be able to tell where it was.  So many times the places that we are looking for are tucked away down streets and are not marked exceptionally well, so we were concerned for this one.

But for this performance, there was no problem with finding the place…..

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We had excellent seats on the 6th row….of course we had to have someone read our tickets and tell us where to sit!!!!!   The seats were comfortable and were covered with light blue seat liners.  This was our first glimpse of the stage which gave a hint of the events to come….

_6163906 We laughed as we watched people take photos of the scene.  In China, they seldom take photos of a structure….unless there is a person standing in front of it, and they were no different here.   There were steps leading up the center of the stage, and many people climbed up the steps and sat on the top one for their photo to be taken.   One brave photo subject even climbed up on the stage near the pile of stones on the left and smiled broadly for the camera.  At this point someone came out and told people to stay off of the stage!!!!  If he hadn’t been there I figure that some of them would have been “riding” the peacocks!!!!

Through out the show, there was a narration running on the side walls, written both in Chinese and English.    Unfortunately some of the English was misspelled and grammatically incorrect, but it certainly helped us to follow what was going on.

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The program was made up of 6 chapters, each with a theme and a wonderfully choreographed dance.  Each of the dances had a particular element of sound or visual interest that managed to capture our imaginations.   The performers  are from the Yunnan ethnic minorities and the costumes were authentic for the area.

Early in the program they made two announcements…..please silence cell phones, and  that photography was not allowed during the performance.  Well, that notice didn’t deter people one little bit.  There were phones ringing all over the place and flashes from cameras and the whirring of video cameras through out the program.   After the 2nd dance, I decided to be Chinese and out came my I-phone camera as well!!!!  (some of the next photos are mine and some were taken from the brochure)…..

 

The first act was “Creation” and the entire dance focused on tribal drums.  At one point there were at least 75 drums on stage (including Sun drums, Barrel Drum, Elephant Foot Drum, Bronze Gong, Cymbals and a Spirit Drum), all banging away in a cool beat, and since we were at the front…..IT WAS LOUD!!!!  I couldn’t help but think how much Brian would be enjoying this particular dance!!!_6173987-2

The second act was a moon dance that was done in silhouette against a beautiful moon background.  It was amazing the different shapes that she could form with  her body and the entire dance was beautiful…..

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The next act was called “The World of Women”.  They all wore huge hats that were kept low on their head and you could never see their faces during the entire dance.  Michael commented at the end of the dance that he thought that some of them were men and, sure enough, in the final curtain call, several men showed up dressed in those costumes!!!  The dance was very stylized and they had eyes drawn on the palms of their hands so that when they all put their hands toward the audience, it looked as if you were being watched!!!  They also had bells on their arms and legs which added greatly to the music.

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This dance was called the “Flowery Waist” dance….no idea why!!!   It was about the meeting of young men and women and their courtships.  It ended in a comical way with one of the “boys” trying to walk while carrying one of the girls in his arms.  He kept dropping her and finally, she stood up, picked him up and carried him off of the stage.  The crowd roared!!!!

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My favorite act was called “Pilgrimage” and was about the pilgrimage that the Tibetans make to their holy sites.   Many people believe that their entire bodies must physically touch the ground during their travels (they “kiss” the ground with every step), so they make a stylized movement where they put their hands above their heads in an attitude of prayer, move their hands down in front of them and then prostrate themselves on the ground.  They then stand up and repeat this process..  OK….long description about the pilgrimage, but the cool thing was the way that they incorporated this movement into the dance.  

This photo is from the beginning of this act (the native costumes were wonderful!!!)….IMG_0322 Then the show started falling  (lots and lots of  it), and the scene became magical……    IMG_0323

Then came the prayer wheels and the gods…..IMG_0324 

….and then a rendition of the prayer flags.    In one sense this is a horrible photo, but I love the movement…..IMG_0327

One of the most interesting things about the snow was that they used their feet, hands and flags to make it swirl as they danced.  I gave the impression of blizzard conditions…..IMG_0329

The final act was called “Spirit of the Peacock” and the main dancer was the woman from the “Moon” sequence.  When she first entered the stage, one hand was holding her skirt out behind her while the other was bent in the shape of a peacock head…..VERY cool.

Here is my photo…..notice all of the other people NOT taking photos….IMG_0330

…..and here is the photo from the brochure.   It gives a better idea of what the costume looked like._6173987-1

At one point they turned on special lights and the “eyes” in the peacock tails reflected those colors…..it was exquisite!!!

The entire program was well done and we both were sad when it reached the end!!!!   It was the PERFECT way to end my birthday in China.

2 comments:

Maggi said...

Looks like it was a stunning experience. Glad that you decided to ignore the instructions about photography.

Sarah Hubbard said...

Let me just say, I am totally jealous of this! Such display and costuming and dance! Lucky ducky you!

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