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Dancing in step with history

Updated: 2021-11-18 08:14 ( China Daily )
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Cultural relic-inspired dances are staged as part of The Nation's Greatest Treasures: Show Season, a spinoff of a popular variety show produced by China Central Television. Among them are The Legend of A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains , Five Stars Rise in the East and Li Hua Xing.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Masterpieces, from paintings to bronze wares, brought to life through the performing arts, Wang Kaihao reports.

Only one painting is confirmed as being by, and credited to, Wang Ximeng, but it is enough to grant him immortality in Chinese fine art history. In the imperial painting academy of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the moment when the prodigy Wang created the blue-green scroll painting, A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains, at the age of 18, an artistic milestone was erected.

About 900 years later, the painting, resplendent and dynamic, was explained to its admirers in another form.

Playing Wang in the dance drama, The Legend of A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains, Zhang Han, a dancer in his early 20s from the China Oriental Performing Arts Group, seems to have a dialogue stretching back across time and space.

"I was excited to get the chance and I did a lot of research and preparation," Zhang recalls. "So I was confident to play this young genius well."

However, after rehearsals began, the situation was unlike his expectations. The rigid demand of the choreographers for accuracy of movement and a vivid reflection of Wang's characteristics meant that Zhang failed to establish the right ethos at the beginning.

"Failing to find the feeling, I was almost on the edge of a breakdown," Zhang says. "However, when I tried again and again, I gradually nurtured an emotional resonance with Wang."

As the inscription on the milestone painting records, Wang's unsatisfactory scripts were continuously turned down by his teacher. After repainting many times, he finally presented what is considered perfect splendor on silk.

"Wang Ximeng entered the painting academy when he was a kid and he devoted his life there," Zhang says. "That also echoes my years learning dancing. I honed every movement day after day."

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