Sunday, January 06, 2008

Divine Performing Arts shows are a breath of fresh air

What sets these artists apart—be they dancers, designers, choreographers—is the profound affinity they share for China's traditional culture. These are people who have gone to great lengths to not just study, but also immerse themselves in China's ancient traditions. Many of the artists make an active practice of things like meditation, or practicing "mindful speech" and rightfulness—traits cultivated by China's sages of the past. These are far more than just world-class artists.
China's Great Cultural Revival By John Augustyn
Special to the Epoch Times
In China under communist rule, traditional culture has been assaulted and denounced for decades. The decade spanning 1966–76 witnessed Mao Zedong's "Cultural Revolution" unleash Red Guard soldiers on every possible vestige of China's traditional past—from Confucius' temple to Buddha statues, calligraphers, and libraries. The motto of the day was "Smash the old world!"
China's rich cultural traditions were seen as an obstacle to the ruling Communist Party's legitimacy: whereas traditional culture esteemed traits like kindness, harmony, and piety, Marxism-Leninism celebrated violence, atheism, "class struggle."
Thus it was the arts, and their performers, had their roots severed to such a severe extent.
But if this weren't enough, insult has been added to injury under communist rule: traditional culture was recycled, with macabre twists. Traditional operas, plays, and stories were recreated to serve Mao Zedong's political ends; what remnants of Chinese culture survived were masticated and re-engineered by the Party. Even today on Chinese state-run television you might see the bizarre spectacle of soldiers dancing—in full military regalia—a hybrid dance part Qing Dynasty ballet, part Maoist propaganda.
That is why the Divine Performing Arts shows like are more than just a breath of fresh air; it's a fresh start for China. In the Divine Performing Arts' shows, gone are the red flags of Chinese communism. Gone are the pirouetting People's Liberation Army soldiers. Gone are all those lyrics crafted to stir patriotism.
Instead, Divine Performing Arts seeks to serve up China's best traditional arts in all their glory, vigor, and spiritual robustness.
You could say, too, that the show's artists and creators know what it is not as well. Many of them, such as the company's orchestra conductor Mr. Rutang Chen, went through the pain and humiliation of the Cultural Revolution.

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