Dancers perform for "Made in China - Return of the Soul", a modern dance show inspired by the Kunqu classic "The Peony Pavilion". [File Photo: ent.sina.com.cn]
Jin Xing's fascination with "The Peony Pavilion" started in 1999 after an unhappy episode with the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Company. They wanted to revive the ancient opera with elements of modern dance, while her minimalist approach was deemed "not modern enough".
"I had to compromise so I did a silly dance number to satisfy them," says the no-nonsense choreographer.
The experience had its upside, though - Jin became fascinated with the 16th century Chinese drama about love, death and resurrection written by Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) and decided to adapt it into a dance.
"I try to focus on the leading character Du Liniang who pursues her love so bravely, dying for her love and returning to life in order to consummate her love," Jin says. "I want to relate her to today's urban women, most of whom do not believe in love any more or dare not devote themselves to love."
She was not able to sort it out, however, until last year when her good friend, the stage and light designer Xiao Lihe, returned from the Yale School of Drama and asked her: "How about your Peony Pavilion?"
The two friends had a common interest in the theme of a woman's self-discovery and search for love and soon joined forces with German musician Lutz Glandien and the Canadian sound and multi-media designer Chris Salter.
"Each of us is a pillar and together we build a hall," says Jin.
Instead of "The Peony Pavilion", Jin has named the 85-minute show "Made in China - Return of the Soul".
"'Made in China' is a famous term reminding people of Chinese products," says Jin. "Love is sometimes a product today. Many women are practical and extremely rational about love and marriage."
The show starts with Du's dream, in which she meets Liu and makes love with him. Liu then disappears suddenly and Du finds herself in a modern city, where men and women walk to and fro in a cold way.
She sees people struggling with busy but boring lives. Couples easily fall in love, quarrel and constantly betray each other. A man looks for girlfriends on the Internet and women change boyfriends easily as they change clothes.
The show ends up with Du returning to her dream, instead of her waking up in real life, as in the original story.
Interestingly, there are two Dus on stage. One is dressed in a Kunqu Opera style, and the other, performed by Jin, is the soul of Du. In some scenes, Jin follows every move of the Kunqu-styled Du and in other scenes the Kunqu Du dozes while Jin dances.
The show features a clear-cut setting with a flowing silvery, silk curtain and white floor. Salter makes a digital lotus, instead of a peony, and projects it on the back curtain. "Salter thinks lotus is closer to love than the peony," Jin explains.
After its premiere in Shanghai in September 2007, Poly Arts and Culture planned to take it to Beijing early this year, but Jin refused.
"I didn't want it to be performed in Beijing before the Olympics. Everyone was in high spirits and that was not fitting for such a soul-searching work," she says. "It is like a tea, not Coca Cola or red wine. I hope people sit quietly, watch it and think of themselves."
"Made in China - Return of the Soul" will run at Poly Theater on Friday and Saturday.
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