Pearl Buck tribute dance show wows New York

Updated: 2015-08-28 11:47

By Niu Yue in New York(China Daily USA)

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Pearl, a multicultural modern dance work inspired by the life of American novelist Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973), had its world premiere at David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center on Aug 27, was a hit with audiences.

"This production is extremely beautiful in the way it shows two cultures," said literary agent Michael Carlisle, who was in the audience for the world premiere. "The 'river' between two cultures is very narrow because they are able to across it again and again. So I hope it's not only for the story but the way the two countries could be."

A member of the audience who only gave his name as Charlie said: "It's just beautiful! The two cultures are perfectly blended in the performance. And the story is told fluently. I just want to read more about Pearl [Buck] after watching this."

As the first woman to win both the Nobel and the Pulitzer prizes for literature, Buck has had a substantial influence on both Chinese and Western cultures.

Born in West Virginia in 1892 and raised in China with her missionary parents, Buck overcame numerous obstacles on her path to self-discovery.

"Pearl's life is a communication between East and West at a time when East and West were somehow divided," said director Daniel Ezralow, Academy Award-winning choreographer. "Her life is a kind of representation and also an example for all of us: how we can embrace cross-culturalism and embrace this world as one world without boundaries."

In Ezralow's interpretation, Buck's story is told in five sections: Spring, River, Flower, Moon and Night, portraying the different stages of life based on a classic poem by Zhang Ruoxu of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD).

"River represents movement, Flower represents her incredible creativity, Night is homesickness when she wanted to go back to China but could not, Moon is her legacy," Ezralow explained.

"A biography of a woman is very difficult, but as soon as you take a poem like Spring River Flower Moon Night, which is in effect about life and how we live, how we die and how things continue, it's just like Pearl," said Ezralow.

The production features a real 150-foot-long, 6-foot-wide river of real water that snakes across the entire stage, representing the actual shape of Yangtze River where Pearl lived in China. Dancers perform around and in the river.

" What I wanted to do on the stage was not create a ballet, I wanted to create something that felt like the Yangtze River," said Ezralow. "When I walked around the river in Zhenjiang, I had the sense that the Chinese culture was in harmony with nature and also with movement, so we did a lot of exploration of that."

"As we were developing the show, I had Chinese dance and Tai Chi lessons and I was also free to use ballet, hip-hop and whatever was necessary at the time. So what I did was I created a style of movement that blended East and West," said Ezralow.

"Our world is so small, so we need to embrace it. Not losing our culture, but embracing it and sharing it. Pearl was someone who was able to do that," Ezralow added.

Produced by China's Legend River Entertainment along with Zhenjiang Media Group, Pearl will have four performances at Lincoln Center.

Hong Xiao in New York contributed to this story.