Dance festival raises its curtain
央视国际 2003年11月28日 12:34
The First Beijing Dance Festival will raise its curtain with the show "Romance and Legend" by the Oriental Song and Dance Ensemble at the Poly Theatre from December 12 to 22.
As the only Chinese ensemble to perform in the Festival, the ensemble combines its two hits "Blue Romance" and "Gorgeous Legend" into "Romance and Legend," which will feature highlights of the two shows.
Opening with thundering drum beats, the first program is a folk dance with the participants performing with flower-drums on their waists.
Choreographed by Zhang Yi, the ancient drums beat out youthful rhythms.
Other Chinese folk dances include the handkerchief dance, the red ribbon dance and some numbers from ethnic minority groups, including Tibetan and Yi dances.
Chinese dances aside, audiences can enjoy Arabian, Spanish flamenco and Irish tap dancing.
Matching all of these dance numbers are carefully selected songs performed by popular singers with the ensemble including Cheng Fangyuan, Mou Xuanfu, Liu Weiwei, Guo Rong and Zhang Yan.
And erhu master Zhou Wei will display his brilliant techniques on the Chinese two-stringed fiddle through the mournful tune of "Moon Reflected in the Erquan Spring (Erquan Yingyue)."
Now the rehearsal is in full swing and all of the ensemble members are preparing to put their talents to use.
Paerhati Bimaxi, the Kazak tap dancer with the ensemble said, "I appreciate the River Dance, but I hope the audience will love our tapping too."
The Oriental Song and Dance Ensemble was founded on January 13, 1962, under the auspices of late Premier Zhou Enlai and Vice-Premier Chen Yi.
It has always been the mission of this ensemble to introduce traditional Chinese music and dance to the world and, at the same time, to present exotic performances to people at home.
During the past four decades, the group has travelled across the country and has visited more than 70 countries and regions. Dozens of popular singers and dancers have made their starts with the troupe.
However, since China began opening up to the outside world in the late 1970s, the art troupe has been challenged by more and more competing troupes.
"Originally, it was the leading troupe specializing in the performance of Asian, African and Latin American folk songs and dances," said Tian Junli, president of Oriental Song and Dance Ensemble.
"These shows were very popular among Chinese audiences because, at that time, people at home had fewer performances they could watch either in the theatres or on TV, let alone shows performed by foreigners," he said.
"As more and more foreign troupes have come into the country and Chinese theatre-goers become much more informed, we have to make all-around improvements to win over audiences."
Facing tough competition at the box office, State-run performing arts troupes have started to make a more concentrated run at the theatre market. And the Oriental Song and Dance Ensemble is one of the pioneers.
In January 2002, their first step to revive the ensemble, a production to celebrate its 40th birthday, amazed the capital's performing arts circles.
Entitled "Blue Romance," the show involved songs and dances from more than 10 countries and highlighted an Arabic and Latin-American flavour.
The eight sold-out performances at the Poly Theatre were followed by 21 shows at the Beijing Exhibition Hall Theatre. It made history for a song and dance show to run for such a long time.
Then the ensemble brought the "Blue Romance" to tour across the country including Hong Kong and Australia for nearly 300 performances.
Within a year, the 20 million yuan (US$2.4 million) generated at the box office turned a profit for the ensemble, which used to rely on government financing.
Then in April 2002, the ensemble produced "Gorgeous Legend," which had a run of 21 performances in 12 days at the Beijing Exhibition Hall. To satisfy audience demand, the ensemble had to give two performances every day and the reward was an income as high as 8 million yuan (US$966,000).
"It was legendary for a State-run song and dance troupe to make that much money," commented Bai Zhouwei, a veteran arts critic with Beijing Evening News.
The achievements could be mainly attributed to Tian Junli, who was appointed president of the ensemble in 2000.
"Arts products should be put into the market. And directors, producers and performers should take more of the current audience's tastes into consideration," Tian said.
It is because of his market-oriented management that the ensemble has reversed the stagnation of production and run profitably since 2001. These two original hit shows have earned the ensemble 50 million yuan (US$6 million).
And of course, Tian has invested about 7 million yuan (US$845,000) to update hi-tech lighting, sets and other props to produce impressive effects for the shows.
"The ensemble no longer wants to simply imitate songs and dances from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Every program stresses its own novelty and innovation," said Chen Weiya, one of the most popular choreographers, who worked as guest director of "Blue Romance."
He Lishan, another director with the ensemble who mainly worked on "Gorgeous Legend," said, "Many new technologies in lighting, stage design and sound are used to improve the entire quality of the show. The goal is to produce a fashionable show to satisfy the tastes of modern audiences."
"Both of the two shows are a perfect combination of the Chinese and Western and the traditional and contemporary," Tian said.
By next spring, Tian will lead his ensemble to perform 112 shows throughout Japan.
By Chen Jie