by Jennifer Wesnousky, Explore Dance, February 16, 2007-
China’s Tang Dynasty between 618 and 906 A.D., explains the program for the NEW TANG DYNASTY TELEVISION’S CHINESE NEW YEAR SPECTACULAR, “is often called the highest point in Chinese history. Morality and education were highly valued and society was in harmony with nature.” Formed and named for this period by Chinese people living in the United States, the goal of New Tang Dynasty Television is to utilize American free speech to educate other Chinese people about world affairs in an environment free of the historic Chinese government restrictions. Its CHINESE NEW YEAR SPECTACULAR, performed at Radio City Music Hall between February 14 and 17, 2006, paid additional tribute to the prosperous period, showcasing a mélange of traditional Chinese song and dance to the educational delight of folks from every ethnicity.
The SPECTACULAR was a spectacle from its very first moment. The curtains opened to a smoke-filled stage across which the scurrying dancers, dressed as angels, appeared to float. A screen in back of the swarm of performers projected what appeared to be genuine Chinese landscapes, which changed from scene to scene. Following the first piece and throughout the performance, a charming Chinese narrator and her male, American counterpart shed some bilingual light regarding many of the production’s depictions.
Representing different historical periods and traditions, the SPECTACULAR presented an array of diverse and delightful dances. The young performers in “Rainbows” burst in carrying mystery props that appeared like bouquets of flowers, releasing them to reveal beautiful, brightly colored garlands similar to those used in rhythmic gymnastics. With tiny steps and little body movement, the number’s focus was on musically moving the ribbons midair, sometimes creating creative shapes in the midst of spins or leaps. “Dai Ethnic Dance” featured tiny, beautiful young females whose slow motion, sensual movement and shimmying shoulders in front of a projection of a river and palm trees evoked a comparison with the Hawaiian hula. Another standout dance piece featured a barrage of male dancers in fur-lined headpieces, made to represent herders on the Mongolian plains. Their masculine dance was filled with flowing arms, jerky shoulder movements and Russian-esque toe-touches, cartwheels and airborne barrel turns.
Many of the SPECTACULAR’s dance numbers included eye-pleasing formations, flowing arms, small, scampering steps and serene, seemingly divinely inspired faces. The use of props additionally characterized several of the compositions. In addition to the “Rainbows” ribbons, the companies incorporated bright orange, parasol-shaped cloths twirling rapidly on their fingertips, flower-shaped candleholders held precariously like trays atop the dancers’ hands and, in “Victory Drums,” a plethora of drums and drumsticks meant, according to Chinese folklore to “ward off evil” as well as “bring in a happy and bright New Year.”
The show also incorporated a live orchestra as well as an assortment of vocal talent including piano-accompanied sopranos, a tenor and a contralto who displayed her incredible vocal range. While all of the performance’s vocal numbers were sung in their native dialects, their projected transcriptions and English subtitles across the performance backdrop revealed their themes, dealing often with historical movements and their devoted disciples.
Whether outfitting the singers or dancers, each and every SPECTACULAR costume was just that, incorporating a brightly colored, beautiful range of fabrics as well as intricate headpieces. Silks and chiffons abounded on outfits including dresses, skirts, pants and robes with sashes with extreme attention to detail on accessories from jeweled tiaras to flowers, bows and even butterflies.
For an hour and a half on February 16, 2007, various aspects of Chinese culture became accessible to such diverse audience members as Chinese and other Americans, including teachers and school children from a multitude of backgrounds who may otherwise never have been exposed. Through the meticulous portrayal of Chinese song, dance and instrumentation by a team of over two-hundred talented performers, the NEW TANG DYNASTY TELEVISION’s CHINESE NEW YEAR SPECTACULAR left its audience with the tranquil sensation of having witnessed something both enlightening and resplendent.
– original from Explore Dance