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Winning works show young artists’ creativity
By Zhang Qian

UNDER the theme of “Evolution — Adaptation and Development,” the Rising Artists’ Works (RAW) program of this year’s Shanghai International Arts Festival is encouraging innovative works by young artists who embrace a broad world view based on their experience of traditional Chinese culture.

About 14 commissioned works and 160 invited programs by young Chinese artists will be staged at the Shanghai Theater Academy, Shanghai Concert Hall and Malanhua Theater, with tickets ranging from 30 to 580 yuan. Combinations of classics and innovation is highly valued.

Initiated in 2012, the RAW program provides a platform for emerging young Chinese artists to show their talent.

Well-known artists on the Art Council will help select works for the commissioned list and help the creative artists to bring their works to the stage. The festival will provide financial support for the selected artists and also help introduce them to overseas theaters and festivals.

“Most of the well-known art festivals and art organizations take discovering and cultivating young talents as their major task, and we are working on that too,” says Liu Wenguo, artistic director of the Shanghai International Arts Festival.

A number of young artists whose works were selected have already received invitations to perform abroad, says Wang Jun, president of the Center for Shanghai International Arts Festival.

The Arts Council for RAW this year includes Oscar-winning Chinese composer Tan Dun, theater director Lin Zhaohua, choreographer Lin Hwai-min, drama director Tian Qinxin, dancer Yang Liping and composer He Xuntian

More than 100 young artists from China, the United States, South Korea and Belgium applied for the program and 14 have acquired “commissioned works” status, compared with only six last year.


The winners include:

• Zhang Zhiwei’s music theater “Jinyang,” which pictures an ancient Chinese city 2,500 years ago through music and audio effects;

• Cai Wenqi’s percussion theater “Floating,” which creates dialogues among six islands by percussion, physical acts and whispering;

• Wu Chenghao’s concerto “The Last Prairie,” which pictures the past, present and future of the Mongolian prairie with traditional Mongolian musical instruments and vocal presentation;

• Chen Jiawei’s musical “The Love of Rags,” telling the story of five rags of different characteristics when a super-rag suddenly joins in.

“Audiences may find that most of the programs are crossover works,” says Wang. “This is because young artists are encouraged to present their ideas by whatever forms that work.”

Indeed, many of the programs carry similar features as crossover, such as the puppet drama “Dragon” that combines a traditional puppet show with multimedia elements; singing group Vocal Force that merges pop and classical baritone in the songs; and musical “Miss Taiwan,” which features a cappella as the major presentation for the show.

“They may still be immature in some ways, but they have great potential,” says Wang.


Highlights of the RAW program

New circus

Les 7 Doigts de la Main (The Seven Fingers of the Hand) is a hip, modern circus troupe from Canada that combines physically demanding circus acts, graceful choreography and stunning theatrics.

The show “Traces” has won numerous international awards since its 2010 debut and has been performed over 1,500 times in 23 countries.

The seven acrobats play themselves in the face of an impending catastrophe so they try to leave their traces by telling their stories though music, dance, speech and high-risk acrobatics. The audience will be encouraged by the power and the beauty of acrobatics.

Date: October 18-19, 7:30pm

Venue: Malanhua Theater, 643 Huashan Rd

Ticket: 20-580 yuan

Primitive sound

Anda, founded in 2003, integrates Mongolian traditional instruments with humai (throat singing). All the 10 members are from Xilin Gol Grassland with the average age of less than 30. In Mongolian, Anda means “sworn brothers.” They won first prize in the primitive group category at CCTV Young Singer Competition in 2006. They now go on international tours.

“The Last Prairie,” depicting the Mongolian grassland, can be divided into three parts — “The Past” reviews a tranquil lifestyle based on the harmonious culture between humans and animals; “The Present” reveals environmental destruction from unlicensed mining, mechanized agriculture and urbanization; and “The Future” is uncertain, with elusive possibilities.

Date: October 19 2:30pm

Venue: Shanghai Concert Hall, 523 Yan’an Rd E.

Tickets: 20-580 yuan

Experimental Peking Opera

“The Execution of the Judge of Hell” is a story about fighting for justice. The ghost of oil lamp, a small potato in hell, witnesses the killing of a young woman in which the murderer escapes punishment. He decides to help her but meets a series of difficulties.

It is an experimental Peking Opera, mixed with shadow play elements to improve the stage performance. As is traditional, it constantly changes — from actors to shadows, from the world to the underworld, from light to stage. The audience will experience two forms of Chinese tradition at the same time.

Date: October 22, 2pm, 7:30pm

Venue: Black Box of Shanghai Theater Academy, 630 Huashan Rd

Tickets: 20-580 yuan

Thought-provoking drama

This is one of the first and most influential modern works written in vernacular Chinese. It was published in 1918 by Lu Xun, one of the greatest writers in 20th century. He said its main purpose was to expose the evil of feudal and family ethics that were “eating people.”

The madman lives in a small village where people extensively study Confucian culture and have no sense of science. In the end, he is convinced that his little sister had been eaten by his brother, and that he himself may have unwittingly tasted her flesh. The story ends with the famous line: “Save the children ...”

Date: October 22, 7:30pm; October 23, 2pm, 7:30pm

Venue: Academy Theater of Shanghai Theater Academy, 630 Huashan Rd

Tickets: 20-580 yuan

Music with meanings

Jinyang, located in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, is known as China’s Pompei for its abundant historical heritages. It was initially built 2,500 years ago, developed in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) and reached its peak in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) before being decimated by fire and massacre by the military in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Composer Zhang Zhiwei, who grew up in the area, has collected the primitive sounds and human voices of locals, as well as the beat of a local drum called “shejia.” In this way, he creates “Jinyang.” Through music, he also conveys his own ideas of Buddhism and human civilization.

Date: October 18-19, 2pm

Venue: New Space Theater of Shanghai Theater Academy, 630 Huashan Rd

Tickets: 20-580 yuan

Play without dialogue

“Dragon” tells a story about a teenager named Tom. A dragon suddenly shows up one night when Tom is immersed in sorrow over his mother’s death. With the dragon’s help, Tom overcomes his fear and sadness and finds that love never leaves him alone.

The drama is created by an international team. Although there’s no dialogue throughout the play, audience can understand easily via the professional body language.

Seven actors play 18 roles in 41 diverse scenes. Eight wooden dragons in character of different shapes combine Chinese elements with Western culture. Exquisite stage design, original music, fantasy props and splendid lights offer audiences a magical experience.

Date: October 24 7:30pm, October 25 2pm/7:30pm

Venue: Academy Theater of Shanghai Theater Academy, 630 Huashan Rd

Tickets: 20-580 yuan


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