Dance review: YANG DANCE ARTS – CHINA

Choreographer and a dancer Yang Hailong chose well his musical support of Li Juntong, who composed accessible music that carries authentic scales mixed with traditional and modern instruments.

By ORA BRAFMAN
September 15, 2019 22:13
2 minute read.
‘PAINTED SKIN’ –  difficult to categorize.

‘PAINTED SKIN’ – difficult to categorize. . (photo credit: Courtesy)

‘Painted Skin’
Suzanne Dellal Center, Tel Aviv
September 12


Contrary to numerous Chinese dance companies that either try to assimilate contemporary western dance, or promote semi-traditional folk dance geared for foreign eyes, Yang Hallong’s company performing his Painted Skin is more difficult to categorize.

Basically, it is movement-based theater, which uses various stage approaches welding ancient Chinese traditional theater practices and some contemporary approaches. The show is based on a tale from a mid-18th century book by Pu Songlig, Strange Stories From a Chinese Studio, a popular book which inspired several films and numerous stage productions.

Painted Skin involves wild interactions between ghosts, humans, foxes and demons carrying a message against amoral behavior and corrupt institutions. The phrase “painted skin” is used to describe a demonic entity disguised in human form. On stage, there are five male performers that portrays both masculine and feminine characters, following the old tradition of past Eastern and Western cultures. Among the characters involved in the plot, you’ll find a Chinese scholar, Taoist priest, beautiful girl and a demon that controls her.

The physical actions advances the storyline while the participants are busy changing costumes, in order to portray more than one character. They move in ultra-stylized manner, which is hard to decipher, since we are unaware of the codes for their specific intents. As a result, we’re often clueless, wondering who is against whom and why.

But who cares as long as the action, music and set are very esthetic and conjure scents of faraway cultures; sights and sounds of bygone times. One can be intrigued by the exotic confusion and enjoy the sight of dozens of paper lanterns cover the ceiling, assuring us of the “authenticity” of those curious, and curiouser visions.

Choreographer and a dancer Yang Hailong chose well his musical support of Li Juntong, who composed accessible music that carries authentic scales mixed with traditional and modern instruments. Similar hybrid approach resulted in interesting costumes and set elements on the brink of minimalism.

Hailong uses many movement’s characteristics of stage traditions of the old Chinese Opera; heel shuffling of female walk, moving in circular lines, occasional mask and other props decorated with a few energetic barrel wheel jumps.
One can appreciate the attempt to explore new ways of presenting the diversity of the Chinese culture, hoping that perhaps around the corner awaits yet another, even more accomplished group.


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