BRISBANE, March 23 AAP – Many Australians think of China in two ways.
The first image is that of an emerging global economic powerhouse, rapidly
rising on the back of a colossal working population.
The other is of a people increasingly demanding greater political freedom after
half a century under a stifling authoritarian regime.
But what has become of China’s rich and profound traditional culture?
Influenced by Taoism, Buddhism and Confucian belief, China’s history has been
recorded for the past 5,000 years but is thought to be much older.
Steered by an advanced civilization, China’s traditional culture is centered
on morality, loyalty, spirituality and religion and has seen a parade of dynasties
celebrating extravagant art, music, writing, dance and architecture.
The Communist Party tried to wipe out the traditional culture during its decade-long
Cultural Revolution, which started in the late 1960s, by destroying countless
historic artifacts and banning anything it deemed superstitious and ridiculous.
Such a long-spanning history could not be completely killed off, however.
Intent on reviving the traditional culture, an entertainment force of 50-plus
dancers is currently touring 30 cities worldwide to present New Tang Dynasty
Television’s Chinese New Year Spectacular.
The show, bringing China’s history to life though dance and music, authentic
historic costumes and majestic set designs, celebrates the Year of the Pig –
which is considered a year of wealth and prosperity in the ancient Chinese lunar
About 20,000 people are expected to have attended the group’s Australian performances
on the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney before moving on
to New Zealand, Taiwan and Korea.
Sydney-based Vina Lee, a choreographer and principal dancer of the show, says
most of the troupe is based in New York, outside the Communist Party’s grip
on mainland China, allowing complete freedom of expression.
The aim of the Spectacular, Lee says, is to compel audiences to understand
and “refresh their minds” about China’s culture.
She insists this can ultimately help build bridges between different races
“Since the Cultural Revolution, people just don’t get it, they just don’t
get the real Chinese culture,” she says.
“There is such a long history, with such human value, and it belongs to
the whole world.
“We need to cherish the good things.”
She says the show’s sequence of short performances – packed with Chinese “erhu”
violin, “pipi” lute and “zither” harp soloists, as well
as classical Chinese dancers and drummers – have much to tell beyond the glitz
and glamor of the stage.
There also is a noticeable use of a wide range of colors.
“The color red is considered to have always been used in Chinese culture
but this is not true – it became the typical color with the communists,”
says Lee, who started dance training full-time when she was 12 and graduated
from the Beijing Academy of Dance, China’s top dance school.
“With the groups of dancers all different colors come together, not just
red, and this just goes back to the original ways.”
Segments focus on ancient mythologies […]
One of the sections illustrates the suppression of followers of Falun Gong,
a form of spiritual meditation.
Another one is about Mulan (the subject of a Disney animated feature), whom
Lee describes as an “innocent, pure girl” who goes off to fight in
an ancient war for her father. “She’s not after any power, she went for
her father because he gave an oath to go and couldn’t – it’s all about respecting
your elders and serving your country,” she says.
Lee, 44, who was born in China and became an Australian citizen about 15 years
ago, has spent years trying to blur cross-cultural boundaries.
For six years until 2005 she taught indigenous children ballet at the Aboriginal
Dance Theatre in Sydney.
“They showed me Aboriginal dance and told me Aboriginal spiritual stories
– some are very close to the Chinese culture, they are very close actually,”
As part of the 2006 Women’s History Month, she was awarded the honor of Outstanding
Woman Leader by the New York State Assembly in recognition of her leadership
and commitment to humanity.
And while the Chinese New Year Spectacular is not likely to be performed in
China in the immediate future, Lee has a vision.
“The show will eventually be performed there – I believe the Chinese will
love it very much,” she says.
Posting date: 2/April/2007
Original article date: 28/March/2007
Category: Media Reports