New dance performance to link Chinese and Western aspects

Dance "Rite of Spring," a co-production of Portuguese and Chinese artists, is ready to premiere at Shanghai Oriental Arts Center tonight.
Ti Gong

“Rite of Spring,” a co-production of Portuguese and Chinese dancers inspired by the masterpiece of Stravinsky and Chinese culture, will premiere tonight at Shanghai Oriental Arts Center.

Directed by Portuguese choreographer Daniel Cardoso, “Rite of Spring” will be presented by seven dancers of Quorum Ballet from Hungary and seven selected Chinese dancers. A number of Chinese artists also participated in the creation to help perfect the Chinese elements in the work. That includes choreographer Xie Xin and costume designer Li Kun.

The whole production was initiated from the idea of having two different cultures work together, according to Daniel Cardoso. “The Rite of Spring” was then selected as a major source of inspiration, as Cardoso has long been interested in choreographing the great piece by Stravinsky.

“A big challenge for the team is how to talk about Chinese culture and have it work with ‘Rite of Spring,’ and more importantly, how to take the subject and apply it to society today,” Cardoso says.

The original concept of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” was about the sacrifice of a young lady to god. But as Cardoso believes, most people in the world today work together for achievements rather than individually. Terracotta warriors, as a symbol of Chinese culture and the ultimate sacrifice of a group, impressed Cardoso on his last visit to Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province. It became the key inspiration for him in the last part of this new creation.

Original music by Stravinsky was used in this part, while dancers in terracotta warrior costumes will illustrate their powerful sacrifice through dance.

The first two parts of the work, according to Cardoso, show exactly what happened in the creation process. He left the first part more flexible as an “empty canvas,” like the beginning of exploration. 

In the second part, as the piece goes on, more Chinese influences come in, showing the creators’ feelings and understanding about a culture very different from their own.

Based on visits to Chinese sites like Tibet, Yunnan and Xi’an, Cardoso selected four aspects of Chinese culture for the work, which he believes embodies his understandings of the culture best. 

They are relationships, yin-yang, nature and myth. All the elements lead to the final part — Rite of Spring — a group sacrifice. Elements like monks chanting in Tibetan and farmers singing in the fields of Yunnan Province are creatively used through movements, music, video, costumes and stage settings.

Completely new music was made for the first two parts of the work, while Chinese choreographer Xie Xin helped with much of the choreography in the second part. Cardoso himself focused more on the first and last parts, as well as linking all three parts.

“The work is not about copying Chinese art, but about sharing what and how I feel when exposed to the Chinese culture as a Westerner,” says Cardoso.

Cardoso is planning to bring the piece to Portugal in April in his quest to introduce it to more Western audiences.

Ti Gong
Special Reports
Top