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August 7, 2010

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Dance drama of old Shanghai

THE most famous singer and actress of old Shanghai, Zhou Xuan, is the subject of a spectacular dance drama -- with lots of old songs -- telling the story of the city's golden age. It opens on August 13. Nie Xin reports.

The story of Zhou Xuan, Shanghai's famed "golden voice of the 1930s," will be staged as an original dance drama by the Shanghai Opera House Dance Troupe on August 13-15.

The show "Zhou Xuan -- A Shanghai Dream" is both the story of a famous actress and singer and of Shanghai itself.

Zhou (1918-57), an adoptive child who later searched in vain for her biological parents, experienced personal tragedies though she had fame and fortune.

The show, a montage of scenes and many forms of dance, premiered in February 2009 and toured Europe. The upcoming show is a new version. A North American tour will open soon.

Zhou, played by young dancer Song Jie, was the most acclaimed performer of old Shanghai and appeared in 43 movies. Her favorite was "Street Angel" (1937), in which she was a girl singer. The two theme songs, "Four Seasons Song" and "The Wandering Songstress," were popular for decades.

The dance drama conveys Zhou's desires for love (failed marriages) and search for family.

In the upcoming show, Zhou's granddaughter will perform a piano solo.

"I am touched by the show, which presents the charm of Shanghai and the beautiful memories of old Shanghai, its culture and history," says Zhou Wei, Zhou Xuan's son.

"The dance style is varied and expresses the emotions of the characters," says famous dancer Zhou Jie, who is also art director of the Shanghai Opera House Dance Troupe.

The new version will present more of Zhou's well-known old songs.

"I guarantee the audience will hear the familiar and favorite old songs of Zhou, but I won't disclose how they will be presented and who will sing them," says Beijing-based Chen Weiya, chief director of the dance drama.

As the performance is about old Shanghai, it also features haipai, or Shanghai style, a concept that embraces and combines varied cultural elements, like the city itself.

"All the details will be presented to fit haipai, which is a concept and symbol of Shanghai style," says director Chen. "Haipai is an ability to contain the cultures from all kinds of places -- it's delicate, sensitive and refined."

The creative team features top artists in China, including director Chen, who directed the opening ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games; dance drama composer Zheng Bing; stage designer Miao Peiru; lighting designer Zhang Shunchang; and costume and make-up designer Mai Qing.

The Shanghai Opera House, founded in the 1950s, is one of the best-known and most influential performing groups in China. It plays an important role in developing opera and vocal arts. It creates and performs opera, chorus, symphony, dance drama, dance, musical theater and programs.

Forty years ago in the 1960s, the opera house was known for its original dance drama "Small Knife Society."

"Now we select the subject of Zhou Xuan, who is the symbolic figure of old Shanghai, hopefully to create another legend of dance drama," says Shanghai Opera House director Zhang Guoyong.

Date: August 13-15, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater, 300 People's Ave

Tickets: 100-680 yuan

Tel: 400-888-5591, 6249-1666, 6372-8702


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