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November 27, 2009

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Dance drama of old Shanghai

A famous tale of two stage sisters facing wicked temptations in old Shanghai is now a lavish dance drama that pulls out all the stops. Pan Zheng reports.

The 1965 movie classic "Stage Sisters" set in 1940s Shanghai has been turned into an extravagant, multi-media dance drama of the same name. It will premiere on December 16-18 at the Shanghai Grand Theater.

The film is famous for the line "Act earnestly and live blamelessly," which will be expressed by the Shanghai Song and Dance Ensemble.

The two-hour show is sponsored by the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, and producers include well-known artists who worked on the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2009 Spring Festival Gala on CCTV.

"Stage Sisters" will also be performed next February at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center. It will later stage 12-20 performances in Beijing during March and April. It is to be shown abroad after World Expo 2010 Shanghai.

The four-act drama is set in Shanghai in the 1940s. A poor girl named Zhu Chunhua is sold by her family to a theatrical troupe in Zhejiang Province. The troupe owner A Xin and leading lady Xing Yuehong treat her kindly. The two young women become like sisters and both become popular on stage.

But one day a gang tries to take advantage of Xing, a fight breaks out, the whole troupe is involved and its master is killed.

The troupe moves to Shanghai and the two women again become popular. They attract the attention of a rich man named Du who wants to buy their affection. Zhu refuses but Xing succumbs and becomes Du's concubine.

Xing is corrupted by luxury and becomes estranged from Zhu and the troupe. One day after a terrible performance, Xing quarrels with Zhu and leaves the troupe.

Du abandons her and chooses another beautiful concubine. Xing wanders the city, being ashamed to return to the troupe.

Zhu deeply regrets her quarrel and when she realized her sister had been abandoned by Du, she and the troupe search the city.

After great suffering the sisters are reunited and there's a happy ending.

Turning the story into a dance drama is challenging.

"It's a big difference from the movie," says director Ding Wei. "Since there's no dialogue, the facial expressions and body language are extremely important."

The dance drama will combine modern dance, tango and traditional Chinese opera elements. There will be multi-media effects and popular music.

"I want to establish a big scene of Shanghai in that golden age, not only in appearance but also feelings," says Ding. "I want to perfectly present the fate of the two sisters."

Dates: December 16-18, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Grand theater, 3000 People's Ave

Tickets: 100-500 yuan

Tel: 400-810-1887


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