Saturday, 10 August 2019
In Mist and Rain
Standard YouTube Licence
Arts of China In Mist and Rain 8 Aug 2019 19:30 Manchester Central Exchange Auditorium
Yesterday I was one of the guests at the premiere of In Mist and Rain, a remarkable collaboration between Chinese finest artists and talented young dancers working in the United Kingdom. One of those talented local dancers was Bo Zhang who danced in the premiere of Powerhouse Ballet's Aria at The Dancehouse on 4 May 2019. It was she who kindly invited me to that performance
In Mist and Rain was inspired by a poem of Su Shi who lived from 1037 to 1131. From the little I have been able to find out from my researches for this review, Su Shi is one of the greats of Chinese literature, but he seems to have been much more than a poet. Wikipedia describes him as Minister of Rites, poet, essayist, painter, calligrapher and statesman. The translation of the poem in our programme notes was "Calming the Wave". I believe that the original was 定風波 and, if I am right, I have found a delightful translation by Alice Poon in The Monday Poem > "Calming Wind and Wave" by Su Shi (a Song poet) - Oct. 6, 2014. It puts me in mind of Horace's Solvitur acris hiems.
The work was created by Leon to music by Zhao Nan and Sun Ye, One of those composers was in the theatre for questions and answers after the show. He explained that he had written Autumn and Winter while his collaborator had composed Spring and Summer. Though firmly anchored in Chinese classical tradition they had used Western classical idioms and some Western instruments as well as Chinese ones with the result that it was pleasing to my occidental ear at least.
Much the same was true of the choreography which started with a figure proceeding across the stage while another was struggling with a burden. There were some bits such as a duet between the leading lady and the male lead that could have been in a ballet. There were other scenes where members of the corps (for want of a better word) seemed to take a few steps and retire. I was mindful that this was an art form that had existed much longer in China than ballet had existed in the West and that I was absorbing it only at the most superficial level.
Of course, sets, costumes and lighting and the production as a theatrical experience can be appreciated even by those who are new to Chinese dance and I did. The set was plain with a single tree illuminated obliquely. The lighting throughout the show was restrained but not to the point that the dancers were obscure. The costumes were gorgeous as were some of the props like a red parasol with ribbons below which the male and female lead progressed. "A bride and bridegroom, perhaps?" I thought.
This was a great theatrical experience and I congratulate everyone who took part. In particular, I single out Susie Lu who founded Arts of China and produced In Mist and Rain.
On the "About Us" page of its website, Arts of China describes itself as a world-class company that combines education with entertainment. Classes in Chinese dance are available at The Dancehouse in Manchester and I have often commended the students' performances in my reviews of MoveIt. The company will perform In Mist and Rain at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre between 13:00 and 14:00 on Saturday, 10 Aug. If you can get to Edinburgh this afternoon, you will be rewarded with a splendid spectacle.