China's 'ballet of the east' seeks world status

Updated: 2015-03-20 13:59


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China's 'ballet of the east' seeks world status

Performers from Anhui Provincial Opera Dance Drama Theatre give a performance of Flower Drum Lantern in Vancouver, Canada, June 30, 2014. [Photo/Xinhua]

China's Flower Drum Lantern, dubbed as "the ballet of the east", is a folk art that combines singing and dancing. It started in Song Dynasty (960-1279) and prevailed at the end of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and the beginning of the Republic of China (1912-1942).

To preserve this folk performance art, Chinese government listed the Flower Drum Lantern as a national-level intangible cultural heritage in 2006, and now the government is hoping it to be recognized on an international stage.

The most distinguished Flower Drum Lantern is in Huaiyuan county, Bengbu city, on the banks of the Huaihe River, East China's Anhui province.

As the birthplace of Flower Drum Lantern, sound of singing, drums, and Gongs can be heard at the moment of entering the Lianhua village of Huaiyuan. Some elders are teaching children to practice the traditional performance.

Shi Chuncai, a 66-year-old folk artist, said that elders of the village would go to teach children the skills of Flower Drum Lantern for free each week at the school so that they can carry on this folk art.

An inheritor of this national intangible cultural heritage, Shi was invited to give performance in the 7th Hawaii International Youth Art Festival in 2013 and won a god award. He has made foreigners enjoy the charm of this Chinese folk art.

Originating from the Huaihe River situated in the south of the Yellow River and north of the Yangtze River, the Flower Drum Lantern brings together the northern and southern culture, making the performance not only bold and candid but also gentle and lovely.

As an important part of the performance, Gongs and drums are beaten according to the changes of scenes and stage lights. Featuring passionate rhythm and strong artistic attraction, gongs and drums are beaten only sometimes, like combining them with dances and performances when the stage lights change, serving as accompaniment to enriche the experience.

Dance is another important part in the Flower Drum Lantern, including the emotional dance by the whole group and performances mixing with dance, martial arts and acrobatics as well as impromptu dance drama by two or three people, highlighting the whole performance.

Bengbu Mayor Zhou Chunyu said Flower Drum Lantern, as a national intangible cultural heritage, is an important folk performance art of Chinese culture and also enjoys great prestige in the world dance art.

Bengbu government has launched the project this year to apply the Flower Drum Lantern as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage, to make "the ballet of the east" known around the world.