Though there were a few spectacular moments at Saturday’s performance, I would not characterize the entire outing as a spectacular.
Rather, this offering by the Renaissance Performing Arts Troupe, a non-profit performing arts company, felt at times like an old-fashioned variety show, one that always elicited respectful applause for effort and enthusiastic clapping for excellence.
Our guide to the evening’s entertainment was Shirley, a young, personable narrator who appeared between acts to describe, in both English and Chinese, what was coming up.
Her comments on history, dance style, or contemporary politics (the persecution of the Falun Gong, for example) were generally helpful, and they allowed the backstage crew to set up and the dancers to change costumes.
And what costumes!
Indeed, you could not take your eyes off the bright, colorful outfits.
Backing the dancers were rear-wall projections of, for example, Chinese landscapes or buildings, that were equally vivid.
What was confusing to me, however, were the non-dance acts.
While pianist Yan Li was absolutely first rate, the piece she played was hardly traditional. Ditto the fine young harpist Seika Dong, whose selection was called “Etude de Concert.”
Three singers sang songs whose words were Chinese but whose harmonies were Western, and 19th century at that.
The dancing, then, was really what the evening was about, and in this regard, the audience received the authenticity for which it paid.
All of the numbers were beautifully choreographed and performed.
A couple were festive, like the “Mongolian Cups” dance and the charmingly restrained “Manchu Elegance,” restrained because the perfomers dance on three-inch heels, the elevation coming from a block positioned in the middle of the shoe, not at the heel.
“Candlelight Vigil” showed the large female dance corps off to good effect, their flowing gestures punctuated by the light from the two lotus candles each carried.
Three other numbers were narratives. “Childhood Dream” was a moving story of a young girl whose mother has been taken away by the authorities, and it featured the fine Jennifer Wang and Zhi Qi. “Divine Brush” was about a young calligrapher (Seongho Cha) whose inspiration comes from heaven.
And the most interesting dance of the evening, which opened Act II, was “Female Kingdom.”
This piece featured a number of individual characters, vividly drawn; a dramtic story; superb tumbling by Chin-Lung Yang; sword-fighting; and striking music by Xuang Tong (recorded, by the way, as was all of the night’s dance music).
There was nothing amateurish about any of the performances.
But the evening might have lived up to its billing more accurately if it had, as the brochure says about the troupe’s mission, simply revived “the traditional Chinese performing arts for the modern audience.”
Oh, for an erhu!
NTDTV’S Chinese New Year Spectacular
WHERE: Proctors Mainstage, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 2 p.m. today
HOW MUCH: $40-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204
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Categories: Life and Arts