Cultural exchange is always an artistic plus, especially when it is combined with an environmental message. Shanghai Dance Theatre’s opulent Soaring Wings, which plays at the Koch Theater, Lincoln Center, January 5-7, celebrates the importance of protecting an endangered species. In this instance, “the bird of good fortune,” the rare crested ibis, discovered in Shaanzi province 31 years ago.
Soaring Wings stars Zhu Jiejing and Wang Jiajun, principal dancers of the troupe. The exquisite production is the work of set designer Zhang Jiwen, costume designer Zhong Jiani and lighting designer Xing Xin.
The effort, part of China Arts and Entertainment Group’s cultural exchange initiative, presents traditional and modern Chinese arts worldwide. Recent productions include Confucius, Dragon Boat Racing, The Legend of Mulan, and the acclaimed American debut of the Peking Opera star Zhang Huoding.
Chen Feihua, artistic director of the Shanghai Dance Theatre, shared the creative complexities of Soaring Wings:
Was the impetus for the production a chance to support the protection of the ibis?
The dance drama Soaring Wings was inspired by a display about crested ibises in the 2010 Shanghai Expo. The elegant crested ibises were like dancers stretching beautiful gestures, a natural source for dance creation. The production is reality-based. It takes the protection of internationally endangered crested ibis as the theme, and appeals to human beings in artistic ways to care for the environment. The show embraces the concept of sustainable development and the value of “truth, kindness and beauty.”
How is that accomplished in the choreography?
The Chinese classical dance is core to Soaring Wings. It is displayed through the symbolic gesture “wading,” “resting” and “flying” of crested ibises. The production uses wonderful Eastern dance language to reproduce the elegance, beauty and purity of crested ibises. It combines elements of symphony to give audiences a sensational touch. This is a work of profound thought, artistic value and visual impact.
Is the goal of Soaring Wings to promote a vision of peaceful harmony?
Soaring Wings is designed to call for us to cherish what was lost in the past, and convey the concept of being environment friendly in future, so mankind and nature can live in harmony with each other. Mankind and nature are a community of shared life. Human beings must learn to respect nature, conform to nature and protect nature.”
How does that differ from a Western interpretation?
Soaring Wings is a production that boasts Eastern spirit and international standards. It is ethereal and elegant, impressing audiences with a feeling of refinement and exquisiteness, and a feeling of humanity and aesthetic appreciation.
What do the dancers/director hope is the main takeaway for the audience?
The work demonstrates the symbolic gestures of crested ibises through the graceful body language of dancers and adopts beautiful scenery and wonderful music to give audiences an emotional resonance and thoughtful inspiration. For what was lost in the past, let us cherish in the future forever.
Soaring Wings conveys the truth of nature, the kindness of heart and the beauty of life. It appeals not only to a homeland owned by mankind, but a homeland shared by all creatures.
Soaring Wings, David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, January 5-7