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November 5, 2009

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Celebrating old Shanghai singer

THE life of legendary songstress and actress Zhou Xuan and the style of old Shanghai are celebrated in an original dance drama produced by the Shanghai Opera House Dance Troupe. Nie Xin reports. Rehearsal begins next week for an original dance drama about old Shanghai and one of its most famous actresses, Zhou Xuan (1918-57), known as "the girl with the golden voice."

Zhou shot to fame in "Street Angel" (1937) in which she sang two popular theme songs, "Four Seasons Song" and "The Wandering Songstress."

The extravagant production "Zhou Xuan" by the Shanghai Opera House Dance Troupe will make its world premiere at the Shanghai Grand Theater next February.

It will be presented during the six-month World Expo 2010 opening next May, followed by a North American tour in August.

The show will be filled with dramatic scenes and the golden oldies will be performed.

"We hope 'Zhou Xuan' can be staged more than 500 times around the world and become a classic dance work for Shanghai," says Chen Weiya, chief director of the dance drama. He was vice director of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The dance drama tells the life story of Zhou, who made 43 movies.

Her life was unhappy and messy. She was separated from her natural parents at an early age and spent her entire life trying to find them, without success. She had failed marriages and mental problems and was institutionalized at the time of her death, at age 39.

The dance drama aims to express her desires for love and passion for family love, Chen says.

"The dance styles will be changeable and varied to express the emotions of the figures in the drama. That's a charming feature," says famed dancer Zhou Jie, art director of the Shanghai Opera House Dance Troupe.

"I guarantee the audience will hear their familiar and favorite old songs of Zhou in the dance show," says Chen, "but I will keep secret how the songs will be sung and who will sing them."

As it's a tale about old Shanghai, "all the details will express haipai, which is a concept and symbol of Shanghai style," says Chen, the Bijing-based director.

"Haipai can accommodate the cultures from everywhere - it's delicate, sensitive and detailed."

The creative team also includes dance drama choreographer Zheng Bing, stage designer Miao Peiru, lighting designer Zhang Shunchang and costume and makeup 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 stages opera, choral works, symphonies, dance drama, dance, musical theater and other vocal and instrumental programs.

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

"Now we have chosen the subject of Zhou Xuan, the symbolic figure of old Shanghai, to create another legend of dance drama in the Opera House," says Zhang Guoyong, the art director.

Casting was opened to the public to select girls who could play Zhou as a child and young girl.


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