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A fusion of Chinese classical and modern dances shows Dongpo's spirit

By Yu Rong


"Like autumn's geese, people come and go with traces to find, yet past moments, like spring's dream, leave no mark behind," reads a Chinese poem by Su Shi, also known by his pseudonym Dongpo, a famous Chinese writer, calligrapher and painter during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

Su's life was full of disappointments, but he accepted his fate and lived in harmony with the outside world, communicating his innermost thoughts in his poems. Recently, a dance drama titled "Dongpo: Life in Poems" has embarked on bringing his words to life via a tour across China.

"For a long time, artists have been creating new spaces, exploring deeper thinking and bringing richer perception and wisdom to humanity," said Shen Wei, chief director of the drama. "For over two years, I have focused on researching the common values of Dongpo, Chinese art with connections to the world."

The dance drama incorporates elements of traditional Chinese culture, such as Chinese ink painting, calligraphy and seal cutting, and showcases a combination of Eastern movement methods, Western ballet and modern dance.

"This dance drama is a little different from the modern dance that I practiced in Europe," dancer Wu Mengke said. "This dance drama, combining modern dance with Chinese classical music, is a new experience for me."

According to Shen, the dance drama extends the language of contemporary dance through the deep integration of Chinese opera, Tai Chi, and other Chinese symbols. With a combination of Guqin music and contemporary music, it showcases Dongpo's affection, melancholy and homesickness.

"The dance drama also combines Chinese opera and Western symphonies. It involves many styles," Shen said. "Dancers write calligraphy with their hair, which is a very modern type of performance art."

It transforms the comprehension of poetry into self-perception, then externalizes it through movement and multiple visual and audible expressions, ultimately creating a theatrical atmosphere that immerses the audience's moods and emotions, Shen said. It also allows the audience to resonate with the stage, dancers, poems and poet, and gradually ignites the recognition of Dongpo's broad-minded life.

"Such a connection with the poet Dongpo from a millennium ago stimulates a spiritual bond that furthers cross-cultural understanding," Shen added.

Shen expressed hope that the spirit of Su Dongpo will be more widely spread so that the world can better understand Chinese culture.

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