Shanghai Opera House explores calligraphy in dance form

Ma Yue
Shanghai's Opera House's dance drama, "Dance of Calligraphy in 353 AD," delves into the history and aesthetics of China's calligraphy tradition.
Ma Yue

Shanghai Opera House's dance drama "Dance of Calligraphy in 353 AD" will premiere at the Shanghai International Arts Festival in November.

The work explores the world of Chinese calligraphy and presents its aestheticism and romanticism in a dance form. It draws inspiration from Lantingji Xu (Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion), which was written by Chinese calligrapher Wang Xizhi (303–361) in a state of drunkenness 1,670 years ago.

Wang was a master of all calligraphy styles, particularly the running script. The Lantingji Xu was written on cocoon paper in the running style using a weasel-whisker brush. It has 324 characters in 28 columns. The script is often hailed as a high point in Chinese calligraphy.

Shanghai Opera House explores calligraphy in dance form
Ti Gong

The costume designs for the "Dance of Calligraphy in 353 AD"

"This subject is very difficult," said artistic director Wang Ge. "There is a threshold for the audience, who must have certain cognitive abilities in order to enjoy the performance."

"The dance incorporates Wang Xizhi's life fragments and insights, as well as the humanistic character of the Wei and Jin dynasties' scholars," he noted.

In an earlier interview, director and choreographer Wang Yabin stated that she had learned calligraphy in order to better collaborate with the dancers on production.

"We are using Lantingji Xu as a carrier to conduct a humanistic retrospective and outlook," she said. "We want to bridge the gap between classic and modern aesthetics and have it resonate with the audience... I hope it becomes a global production with national elements."

Ren Dongsheng, a well-known light designer, is also on the creative team, as is composer Lv Liang, who merged symphonic music with traditional Chinese instruments such as guzheng, pipa, bamboo flute, and guqin.

Shanghai Opera House explores calligraphy in dance form
Ti Gong

The stage designs for the dance drama

Performance info

Dates: November 10-12, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater 上海大剧院

Address: 300 People's Ave 人民大道300号

Tickets: 80-580 yuan

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