The Gansu Provincial Troupe of Song and Dance.
(photo credit: COURTESY OF THE GANSU PROVINCIAL TROUPE OF SONG AND DANCE)
While deeply rooted in their own culture and traditions, the members of the Gansu Provincial Troupe of Song and Dance spend much of their time on tour absorbing the sights and smells of the countries they visit. To these trained performers, an exchange with other cultures affords them the ability to keep their art current, to update it constantly and to allow it to seep out of China and into the world. In the eyes of troupe director Dong Qing, touring is essential to keeping the company relevant.
“We spread our culture around the world through quality and representative works. In addition, we can also appreciate local art forms, learn local art and think about how to better integrate the two cultures when performing in various places,” she remarked in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post.
This month, Qing will lead the company from its home in the Gansu Province, located between Tibet and Mongolia (home to the famed striped mountains), to Israel for the first time. The performances at the Suzanne Dellal Center will be part of the annual Spring Chinese Dance Festival and will ring in the Year of the Pig. The visit to Israel is supported by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Ministry of Culture.
The Gansu Provincial Troupe of Song and Dance was founded in 1939 as a means to give voice to myriad styles and aesthetics present in the region. The company presents large-scale productions that bring together movement, music, costumes and stage design. As part of the company’s mission, the performances include dances developed by different minorities including Han, Tang, Dunhuang and other Chinese ethnic groups.
While in Tel Aviv, the company will perform The Evening Party by Ren Manci. Manci has been working with the Gansu Troupe for nearly 15 years. Aside from her duties as performer, she honed her skills as a choreographer. Since her breakthrough creation Home in 2015, Manci has contributed greatly to the Chinese dance community. Her choreographies blend old and new – traditional customs with contemporary movement. Today she serves as the artistic director of the company.
This production, which has been presented nearly 300 times in China and further afield, is comprised of a number of short segments, each of which boasts a different traditional song or dance element from Gansu’s rich history. Many of these dances have roots in spiritual practice and are intrinsically connected to the land on which they were created and passed on through generations. “The Chinese nation has a long history of 5,000 years, and our culture has been constantly innovating and changing. What we express is the thought of Chinese culture, because art is an effective way to spread cultural thoughts,” said Qing.
The Evening Party is known for one such segment known as the Thousand Hand Bodhisattva, which many will recognize from various viral Internet videos. In this entrancing dance, the company comes together to form one being with many heads and hands. Working in perfect synchronicity, the dancers dip and weave in and out of formation. While the segment may appear simple, it requires the highest level of concentration and consciousness. “The performance is not an easy task. It takes every participant to work together to achieve a performance,” said Qing.
Bringing the company to Israel will allow Qing to check off a longstanding item on her bucket list. From an early age, Qing remembers being drawn to Israel. “Israel is a country I yearn for very much,” explained Qing. “It is full of mystery, and its scenery is also very beautiful. I have known of Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, the White City and other famous places since I was very young.”
While in town, company members will teach a master class at Hakvutza Studio. All levels of dancers are welcome to join along and get a taste of the company’s diverse repertoire.The Gansu Provincial Troupe of Song and Dance will present ‘The Evening Party’ on February 15 and 16 at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv. For more information, visit suzannedellal.org.il.
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