Folk arts festival dazzles and delights with wide variety of performances
By Qu Zhi
Baoshan District in northern Shanghai has much more to offer than just heavy industry, a great port and an efficient logistics center.
The district also has much culture to offer.
The Baoshan International Folk Arts Festival, first held 18 years ago, showcases a wide variety of performances, exhibitions and other events far from the commercial sphere.
The eighth edition opens next Tuesday with the theme “Culture Makes A Better Life.” It will take place in various plazas, campuses, villages and other venues across the district.
The festival is also for the first time a part of the Shanghai International Arts Festival which kicks off next Friday.
This year’s Baoshan festival features 13 folk art troupes from five continents.
The schedule is packed — everything from Hungarian Bartok folk dance to the district’s own Yuepu gong and drum performances to a Chinese calligraphy exhibition and Maori crafts from New Zealand.
The opening ceremony takes place next Thursday — two days after events kick off — and features a parade on Haijing and Mudangjiang roads. Highlights include a Chinese lion and dragon dance, Korean traditional dance and Slovakian arts.
This year, eight towns or sub-districts in Baoshan will have minor festivals featuring their own culture and tradition coinciding with the main event.
Cross-stitching is a form of embroidery in which x-shaped stitches are used to form a picture. Cross-stitching is a time-honored craft in Baoshan’s Luojing Town. The technique dates to the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Textile production flourished in the town during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Women often made scarves or handkerchiefs. Later they started stitching flowers and patterns on the cloth and gradually improved their technique. Thus Luojing cross-stitching was created. During the festival, an exhibition showcasing elaborate cross-stitching works will be held in the town’s Community Cultural Center.
Folk artists from Luodian Town spent three years replicating a bustling scene from the ancient Yangwang Temple Fair. They made a model that is 20 meters long with more than 100 figures, each with vivid expressions.
A temple fair is a traditional gathering held by Buddhism and Taoism organizations with many vibrant activities and performances. Through the end of October, visitors can check out the replica of this old tradition at Luodian Town Community Cultural Center.
Also, a special photo exhibition is underway at Gaojing Town Community Cultural Center about the lives of couples who have been married at least 60 years. The “Diamond Marriage” photography exhibition also reflects on how people manage during periods of social upheaval.
While the festival shines a light on Baoshan, it has also embraced foreign cultures, customs and art forms. Since 1995, it has brought together 99 cultural and art troupes from 49 countries and regions. Nearly 2,400 artists from all over the world have participated in the festival.
Here are some highlights among the overseas troupes scheduled to perform this year.
Rovesniki Choreographic Ensemble, Russia
This folk dance troupe from Russia consists of 550 dancers ranging from five to 20 years old. The great choreography and dazzling costumes ensure audiences have a good time.
The troupe is said to be creative in terms of both dance theory and techniques.
In addition, all members are taught to have a positive life attitude and respect for others. Their performances usually represent the importance of family.
The ensemble has toured all over the world including stops in England, France, Bulgaria and Japan.
Maori Arts And Crafts Institute, New Zealand
New Zealand Maori Arts And Crafts Institute is designed to promote and protect Maori culture.
Founded in 1963, the art troupe has some extremely talented artists and performers. Visitors this year can learn about Maori tattoos, wood carving and weaving.
Xinjiang Kashi Yecheng County Song and Dance Ensemble, China
The ensemble was first founded in 1954 with the original name of the Yecheng County Art Troupe in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It was renamed in 1993.
Highlights include Yecheng Uygur Har-Goolun mountain songs and dances, Yecheng Uygur folk songs. Varying from other folk songs, Xinjiang people, especially the herdsmen, sing among the mountains using their dialect.
The lyric is not fixed, which singers usually sing freely and passionately in a blunt and unsophisticated way. It could be solo, duo or chorus.
Congo Folk Art Ensemble, Democratic Republic of Congo
Founded in 2008, the African Congo Folk Art Ensemble was formed by folk art aficionados.
They play the djembe, a rope-tuned skin-covered goblet drum and can even sing some Mando-pop songs.
The ensemble previously performed in the city during the 14th Shanghai International Arts Festival in 2012 and 2011 Shanghai Happy Valley Beer Festival.
This year they plan to reproduce scenes from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa through dancing and singing.
Thornhill Scottish Country Dancers, United Kingdom
Thornhill is a small rural village located in the heart of Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.
Formed in 1987, the group now has 60 members ranging from 11 to 40 years old although most are college and high-school students.
The troupe’s program consists of reels, jigs and strathspeys, as well as ladies step dances and a men’s highland sword dance.
They have toured Indonesia, Malaysia, Belgium and other countries.
The group has an adult and youth team, which have both won awards at various festivals.
• October 15
Special performance at Cultural Center
(Team A: Israel, Poland, Russian, Sri Lanka; China’s Xinjiang team)
Special performance at Zunmuhui Plaza
(Team B: Hungary, South Korea, New Zealand, Slovakia)
Special performance at Gaojing Plaza
(Team C: Brazil, Indonesia, Serbia, Scotland)
• October 16
Gucun Town Special Minor Festival (Team A)
Special performance at Cultural Center (Team B and China’s Xinjiang team)
Zhangmiao Sub-district Special Minor Festival (Team C)
Special performance at Shanghai Ganglian E-commerce Holdings Co Ltd (Team C)
Luojing Town Special Minor Festival (Team B)
Special performance at Zunmuhui Plaza (Team A)
• October 17
Opening ceremony at Baoshan Sports Center
Welcoming activities for Chinese and foreign teams
• October 18
Happy Fellowship Activity on Campus
New Zealand Maori Culture Exhibition
Special performance at Cultural Center (China’s Xinjiang team)
Special performance at Meilan Lake (Hungary, South Korea, Slovakia, Scotland, Brazil)
Special performance at Wanda Plaza (Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Serbia)
• October 19
Daily performance at Nanjing Road (Team B)
Special Performance in Qingpu Cultural Festival (Hungary, New Zealand)
Team Activity Day & Household Life Experience (Team A and Team C)
Special performance at Meilan Lake (Team A)
Special performance at Wanda Plaza (Brazil, Scotland and China’s Xinjiang team)
Yanghang Town Special Minor Festival (Indonesia, Serbia, South Korea, Slovakia)
• October 20
Youyi Sub-district Special Minor Festival (Team C and China’s Xinjiang team)
Yuepu Town Special Minor Festival (Team A and Team C)
Team activity day & household life experience (Team B)
Special performance at Fengxian Theater (China’s Xinjiang team)
Special performance at Wanda Plaza (Team B)
Special performance at Cultural Center (Team A)
• October 21
Miaohang Town Special Minor Festival (Team A)
Luodian Town Special Minor Festival (Team B and China’s Xinjiang team)
Special Performance at Cultural Center (Team C)
Special performance at Fudan University (Team A)
Special performance at Fengxian Theater (Team B)
Special performance at Shanghai University (Team C and China’s Xinjiang team)
• October 22
Sightseeing in Shanghai (Team A, B, C and China Xinjiang’s team)