A world of arts: from kung fu to Vivaldi and 'I Ching'

A series of performances coming up in Shanghai offer audiences a dazzling range of styles and interpretations.

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Choreographer Zhao Liang (third from left, standing) and his dance group

A series of performances coming up in Shanghai International Arts Festival offer audiences a dazzling range of styles and interpretations.

‘Martial Art in Dance’

Choreographer Zhao Liang will premiere his latest creation “Martial Art in Dance,” which involves kung fu, during the 19th Shanghai International Arts Festival on October 20-21.

Four young contemporary dancers and three martial artists will put on an intense show of sabre play, sword play, cudgel play and tai chi at the Lyceum Theater.

It is one of Zhao’s many experiments in exploring contemporary dance based on traditional Chinese arts and philosophy. His other well-known experiments include “The Dreams of Zen,” “Escaping from the Temple” and “The Tea Spell.”

“I always believe that there is no impassable boundary among different arts,” says Zhao. “Martial arts, although widely taken as an athletic sport, actually has a rich cultural legacy worth developing in art.”

Zhao says “martial arts” and “dance” in Chinese are phonetically similar, with distinct presentations but the same root. They both follow the law of the universe and are also deeply connected with the human body and spirituality.

With the theme of “intoxication, exaltation and simplification,” Zhao chose a simple stage setting of only black, grey and white for the work. Crossover music with elements such as minimalism, cello and Chinese pipa (Chinese lute) is used to portray the clash between contemporary and traditional features.

Date: October 20-21, 7:30pm

Tickets: 180-580 yuan

Venue: Lyceum Theater

Address: 57 Maoming Rd S.

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‘The Magic Flute’

Bejart Ballet Lausanne from Switzerland will hit the SAIC Shanghai Culture Square with “The Magic Flute” on October 21-22.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the ballet troupe as well as the 10th anniversary of the death of its founder, Maurice Bejart.

“The Magic Flute,” based on Mozart’s opera of the same name, is one of Bejart’s favorite works.

Mozart’s opera is, in Bejart’s words, “a fairytale which takes us into the pure poetry of childhood or genius; then, and most of all, a precise, rigorous, and inspired ritual.” But he chose to interpret the story with two approaches: a pure fairytale and a deep philosophical fable.

As one of the most significant exponents of modern ballet, Bejart ignored the genders of dancers. He creatively merged rock with Mozart’s music and widely used varying styles of music — from electronic to eastern, with elements from India, China and Japan.

Young Chinese dancer Sun Jiayong will take part in the performance.

Date: October 21-22, 7:30pm

Tickets: 80-1,280

Venue: SAIC Shanghai Culture Square

Address: 597 Fuxing Rd

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‘Lecture on Nothing’

Robert Wilson will visit Shanghai for the first time when his work “Lecture on Nothing” is staged at the Shanghai Grand Theater on October 21-22.

The drama is an adaptation of American composer and writer John Milton Cage Jr’s namesake work last century. Wilson directed and starred in the monodrama in 2012, as a tribute to Cage Jr on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

It is “a revelatory new theater piece. Wilson has spent a lifetime absorbing Cage, and it seemed here in his deliberate reading that Cage had given him permission to be, on stage, deeply human, practically vulnerable yet still powerfully original,” the Los Angeles Times said in a review.

Wilson is one of the most significant experimental theater explorers. He integrates several media including dance, movement, lighting, sculpture and music in his work.

Wilson believes dramas don’t have to rely on a script. He prefers to design visual effects before text when conceiving a new drama.

“I hope visual experience can help the audience understand music better,” he says. “Without sounds, your associations and imagination about the drama will be less limited, and that’s why Chaplin’s silent films are so great.”

At the beginning of the “lecture,” the speech drafts of Cage are piled up on the stage. Wilson sits still with his face painted white.

It is followed by an annoying electronic sound for minutes. The harsh noise may make audience uncomfortable, but this is how Wilson reproduces the reaction of those who watched Cage’s speech for the first time in 1950.

Date: October 21-22, 7:15pm

Tickets: 180-480 yuan

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater

Address: 300 People’s Ave

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Hong Kong String Orchestra

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Violinist Yao Jue, founder of Hong Kong String Orchestra

Classical music

Violinist Yao Jue will collaborate with Hong Kong String Orchestra at the Shanghai Symphony Hall on November 4. They will perform Richard Meyer’s “Mantras,” Mendelssohn’s “Octet in E-flat Major” and Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”

“I personally like Meyer’s ‘Mantras’ very much, as it provides a very different voice for strings, which I would love to share with Shanghai audiences,” says Yao.

As a renowned violinist, Yao is passionate about sharing what she loves. She set up the Hong Kong String Orchestra in 2013, with a mission to cultivate young local music talent as well as bring classical music to every corner of Hong Kong.

All 20 members of the Orchestra are Hong Kong residents, with an average age of 26. Yao says it is so far the only orchestra in the island city that provides an exclusive platform for talented citizens. It has collaborated with several renowned musicians, including composer Tan Dun, cellist Qin Liwei and conductor Andres Cardenes.

It will be the first time for the ochestra to participate in the Shanghai International Arts Festival, and Yao hopes that its musicians will take the opportunity to learn more about Shanghai, while exhibiting their arts and culture to Shanghai audiences.

“The young musicians are the future,” she says. “It is important to help them enjoy what they are doing and thus bring that joy to ordinary people.”

Date: November 4, 7:30pm

Tickets: 60-380 yuan

Venue: Shanghai Symphony Hall

Address: 1368 Fuxing Rd M.

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"In the Event"

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"Safe as Houses"

Six dance dramas

The Netherlands Dance Theater will bring six works to the Shanghai Grand Theater on November 3-5. They are “Safe as Houses,” “In the Event,” “Shoot the Moon,” “Shutters Shut,” “Woke up Blind” and a new creation by Edward Clug.

“Safe as Houses” is inspired by the noted Chinese philosophical work “I Ching,” or  “The Book of Changes,” an ancient cosmological text.

“In the Event” integrates dance movements, original music, texts and rich visual designs. “Shoot the Moon” reveals a higher level of expression in relationships — the emotions hidden inside most of us. “Shutters Shut” visualizes the poem of Gertrude Stein, combining body language and rhythmic words. “Woke up Blind” tells a soft story of being drawn into an acoustic world by vocal power and frenetic guitar sounds.

“If you see only one live performance this year ... the Netherlands Dance Theater is the one to see,” said the New York Times.

The troupe is one of the world’s leading contemporary dance companies. Since its founding in 1959, this rebellious troupe has built a rich repertoire of 600 ballets, yet it still keeps an exuberant creativity today. The company consists of elite dancers from all over the world, each of whom is capable of excellent solo dance.

The six works are mostly choreographed by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot, the company’s artistic directors. They have been collaborating for over 26 years, created more than 50 works and won many awards. They work well on the pioneering idea the company is pursuing with their rich experience of dance performance and being skilled in expressing people’s inner worlds.

Lightfoot says the core of dance creation is how to make the biggest use of the theater’s space in order to express human emotions.

Date: November 3- 5 7:15pm

Tickets: 80-680 yuan

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater

Address: 300 People’s Ave

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‘Fagin’s Twist’

Avant Garde Dance from the United Kingdom will stage “Fagin’s Twist” — their innovative perspective of Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” through contemporary dance — at the Shanghai International Dance Center on November 10-12.

Fagin and Bate, the antagonists in “Oliver Twist,” become the protagonists in “Fagin’s Twist.” The performance focuses on their mysterious childhoods in extreme poverty, driven by greed and ambition, leaving an ending without any easy redemption. Hip-hop elements are skilfully used.

Avant Garde Dance came from The Place in central London, the UK’s premier center for contemporary dance uniting training, creation and performance.

Led by artist director Toni Adigun, Avant Garde Dance combines the narrative features of dance drama with modern hip-hop, melted hop dances and other elements of modern performance into traditional dramas.

Most of their works vividly reflect Adigun’s range of styles, attracting the world’s best young dancers.

Date: November 10-12

Venue: Shanghai International Dance Center

Address: 1650 Hongqiao Rd

Tickets: 80-880 yuan



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