Published: 12:16, May 23, 2024
Dance show's success in step with traditional Chinese legacy
By Wang Jinhui
 A still from Wing Chun, an original dance drama created and staged by Shenzhen Opera and Dance Theater. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Since its debut at the end of 2022 in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, the original dance drama Wing Chun has become a hit on stage, with more than 100 shows performed in China and abroad in less than 18 months.

The drama integrates some of China's intangible cultural heritage — Wing Chun, a martial art style which originated in South China, and xiangyunsha, or gambiered Canton gauze, a traditional silk fabric that originated in Guangdong, particularly Shunde district of Foshan — into the storyline and performance, exploring the development of Lingnan culture and displaying the beauty of modern Chinese civilization to the world.

Dancers dressed in xiangyunsha-made costumes perform martial arts through dance, blending strength with grace.

"Wing Chun creates a good model for the combination of the strong and soft characteristics of Lingnan people, their open and inclusive spirit and local lifestyle and customs. It achieves a spiritual refinement of Lingnan culture and advances our Guangdong-produced literature and art another step forward," said Chen Jianzhong, executive deputy leader of the stage art creation special working team at the Guangdong Academy of Arts and a first-level playwright.

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Early this month, Marco Polo, an original opera by Guangzhou Opera House that had its premiere in 2018, was restaged in Guangzhou. With nearly 200 performers, the massive ensemble brought the stunning epic Marco Polo back to life on stage.

A stage photo from the original opera Marco Polo, commissioned by the Guangzhou Opera House. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

During the shows, an exhibition of Marco Polo-related intangible cultural heritage was held at the Guangzhou Opera House, featuring more than 30 pieces of "Kwonglazed porcelain" and "Cantonese embroidery" arts, tracing Marco Polo's footsteps and showcasing the ancient friendship and cultural exchanges along the millennia-old trade routes.

Before this, Guangzhou launched the original dance drama Awakening Lion in 2018. The first grand folk dance drama featured the national ICH item of Guangdong lion dancing, combining Lingnan dance with lion dance and martial arts.

Awakening Lion won the "dance drama award" at the 11th Lotus Award, the highest dance award in China later that year. Since its debut, Awakening Lion has received widespread acclaim and become a new symbol of Lingnan culture.

In recent years, Guangdong has conducted numerous innovative practices, using various forms such as dance dramas, musicals, films and games to present the cultural and historical context of Lingnan.

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The latest work, the Cantonese musical I Am What I Am, adapted from the animated film IP of the same name, began its Chinese mainland tour in Guangzhou on May 9. This musical incorporates many local elements and cultural connotations, showcasing the charm of Lingnan culture and generating great enthusiasm from its audiences.

As of the end of 2022, Guangdong has five ICH projects inscribed in UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: Cantonese Opera, guqin (Lingnan school), paper-cutting (Guangdong paper-cutting), shadow puppetry (Lufeng shadow puppetry), and tea arts (Chaozhou gongfu tea arts).

The province is home to 165 national-level ICH representative projects and 816 provincial-level ones; 132 national-level and 824 provincial-level ICH inheritors; and one national-level and nine provincial-level cultural ecological protection experimental zones.