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[Art艺术] Pride of the peacock 骄傲的孔雀

Yang Liping has done more for folkdance in China than anyone before her. She has taken it from grassroots origins to international stage and in the process, given new life and resurrected interest to what could have been a dying art.

All her past productions have been visually inspiring, heart-thumping shows that often leave the teary-eyed audience cheering on its feet, wildly applauding long after the final curtain falls.

People leave the theater with the image of the peacock princess seared on their minds, marveling at her artistry and talking about her impossibly fluid moves on stage. They also admire her commitment as a mainly self-taught artiste who has nurtured a generation of raw young talents handpicked on her travels to remote villages in her relentless research on primeval music and dance forms.

She is undoubtedly recognized as a consummate artiste of almost deified status, an advocate of ethnic art in both music and dance.

But at 54, she has decided it is time to find another platform for her talent, and most people interpreted that as meaning she will do more directing and choreography backstage in her continued efforts to promote the best of China's folkdance forms.

That is why it was unsettling that her widely publicized "farewell performance" was so oddly experimental. Many had expected her to gather the highlights of an illustrious career and present these to her fans in one grand final gesture.

Instead, Peacock is a dance drama veering on the abstract, full of symbolic representations such as a hoary mountain spirit and a constantly spinning Time.

There were gilded bird-cages and an introductory spiel on freedom, a pair of peacock lovers flirting and a covetous raven. They were joined by some weirdly familiar characters that look as if they had escaped from other genres, like the white-draped spirit from the Japanese animation classic Spirited Away, and the vengeful tree army from The Lord of The Rings.

These must have puzzled those among the audience who had eagerly anticipated more of Yang's individual artistry and had come to pay her homage. They would have remembered her signature Dynamic Yunnan productions and they were probably expecting more of the same.
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