Northwest Asian Weekly
This month, the China National Acrobatics Troupe will bring “The Dream of the Golden Clown” to Seattle. This production premiered in China in March 2013 and has been called “a visually stunning modern acrobatic spectacular” and a significant milestone work in Chinese acrobatic performance. This world-class show will be coming to McCaw Hall on Sept. 20 and 21 for a total of three shows. We sat down with choreographer, writer, and director Hengda Li to ask a few questions before the show.
How did this project, which you wrote and directed, come about?
As artistic director of American Asian Performing Arts Theatre (AAPAT), I had the pleasure of working with the China National Acrobatic Troupe (CNAT) in 2009. For the first time ever in my life, I had a chance to get up close and personal with some of the best acrobats in the world. I came to realize that behind their success, there were many untold bitter and sweet stories.
Many performers in CNAT have endured years of grueling training and intense competitions to perfect their skills. I know we would not have the opportunity to witness their brilliant performance today, if CNAT acrobats had not put in tremendous effort with incredible dedication.
Four years after our first encounter, inspired by actors and actresses at CNAT, I am glad I can finally bring their heart-touching stories to stage and share it with Seattle audiences.
How did you choose acrobatics, rather than another form of dance?
As many readers know, Chinese acrobatics ranks among the best in the world thanks to its rich and long heritage. Years of practice sharpened the physical skills of the performers, but there is still plenty of room for improvement within the creative expression aspects of Chinese acrobats. Having worked as a dancer, instructor, choreographer, director, and having been blessed with the opportunity to work with many talented artists including those from the CNAT, I feel an obligation to share what I’ve learned to make a difference – by introducing Chinese classical dance into the performance; I want to add layers of inner emotions and outer artistic display to the show. It is my dream to revive the traditional Chinese acrobatics and take it to the next level – an artistically vibrant future!
Please share your thoughts about your premiere success with our readers.
It took us a lot of time, hard work and dedication to complete the project. I am thankful I had the opportunity to undergo the ordeal and learn something new. And I am so proud that the end result is well worth the effort! The Dream of the Golden Clown offers an innovative and unique theatrical experience for audiences unlike any other. In our latest production, acrobats are no longer just masters of physical skills; they became amazing dancers and story- tellers. They are artists who are capable of using graceful body language and emotional narrative to tell a heartwarming story.
Our Beijing premiere received widespread critical acclaim and favorable audience reviews. Mr. Jian Lin, former director of CNAT, described the performance as “A complex, powerful and moving adaptation of traditional Chinese acrobatics. A fresh era of wit and innovation in acrobatics!”
With less than three weeks to go before The Dream of the Golden Clown opening night at McCaw Hall, what do you have to say to your audience?
As the writer, choreographer and director of The Dream of Golden Clown, by introducing contemporary acrobatics and Chinese Classical dance, I hope to offer something fresh and new to the Seattle audience.
I have put my best efforts in this show, trying to deploy the “vocabulary” of acrobatics, so that the once “street art tricks” become one of the most expressive art forms. People once firmly believed acrobatics simply a display of physical techniques and it felt almost impossible to re-imagine a place where the art form could go once human skills reaches its maximum potentials. You will be surprised, after you witness this performance.
Mixing Chinese classical dance and traditional acrobatics together allows acrobats the chance to perform with contemporary freshness and vivid imaginative power. There is a new vitality in acrobatics now – it is capable of “speaking” to audiences, evoking emotions and conveying characters, all without a word…I hope audiences enjoy the show as much as I have enjoyed creating it! (end)
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