Dance drama on life along Silk Road set for Beijing debut

The Silk Road, an ancient network of overland and marine routes linking Asia with Europe and Africa for commercial and cultural exchanges more than 2,000 years ago, is the theme of Chinese choreographer Yang Wei's latest dance drama that will debut in Beijing later in the month.

Silk Road, which mixes traditional Chinese dance and contemporary dance in lavish presentations, has been produced by the Shaanxi Song and Dance Troupe.

It premiered in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province, in January.

Yang's works are known to be grand spectacles, such as the dance drama Princess Wencheng. It tells the story of a Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) princess' marriage to King Songtsan Gampo and how economic, social and cultural ties between the Han and the Tibetan ethnic groups were enhanced. Another example is Mei Lanfang, a dance show that focuses on the late Peking Opera star.

Yang, who is in her late 30s, is also involved in the production of the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, the most-watched annual event on Chinese TV.

Working with the Shaanxi troupe, Yang prepared for nearly a year before staging Silk Road in Xi'an. She describes the show as an "experiment", for which the production team covered the stage with a lot of sand. The stage backdrops also switch from traditional Chinese ink paintings to Persian designs.

"Instead of using intensive drama and specific characters, I presented the show in abstract, romantic and spiritual ways," Yang told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday.

The dance drama has six major characters, including a traveler, a messenger and a guide, who represent the traders, pilgrims, nomads and inhabitants along the ancient Silk Road.

"Each of the characters are shown as contributing to the development of the world's culture and civilization," she says.

According to Zhang Xiaomin, director of the Shaanxi troupe, it's the first dance drama for the company that was founded in 1940 in Yan'an, another city in the province. But the troupe has held many performances inspired by local culture and the Tang Dynasty.

"When we premiered Silk Road, audiences were surprised by how we presented it-the theme is both Chinese and international," says Zhang.

The show's music composer, Guo Hongjun, who is known for his symphonic works, has focused on using traditional Chinese instruments, such as the xiao (an end-blown flute) and the pipa (a four-stringed plucked instrument), to portray different scenes in the dance drama.

"The music is soothing, illusory and leaves vast space for imagination," says Guo.

If you go

7:30 pm, April 22 and 23. Beijing Tianqiao Performing Arts Center, 9 Tianqiao South Street, Xicheng district, Beijing.


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