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Essential elements (2)

(China Daily)

10:27, August 10, 2012

Most of the time, there is no music but deep, slow Tibetan chanting. The only sounds are the dancers' feet stepping on the floor and their heavy breaths. Their costumes are simple and gray.

"The clothes at galas are not worn daily by Tibetans. We only wear formal dress during festivals," 22-year-old dancer Tsering Norbu says.

The big-eyed curly-haired young man has studied dancing since childhood and now works at Song and Dance Troupe of Tibet Autonomous Region. He is a big fan of Wanma Jiancuo and volunteered to perform.

"Like the costumes, the dance overturns Tibetan dance impressions. It's real and powerful. Usually I dance on national occasions and assigned missions to celebrate some event. I have to smile happily and dance like it's a festival. But this is anything but conventional," says the dancer, who arrived in Beijing a month ago from Lhasa.

The choreographer also invited Tibetan eagle flute players to perform. The flute is made from the wing bones of eagles.

The choreographer first had the idea for Shambhala when he studied at Minzu University in 2000, to express his love for Tibetan culture and his pursuit of freedom.

"I hate being constrained by restrictions. That's why I quit from a stable job at a national dance troupe after graduation. It was like setting free a bird from a cage," he says. "My dance works were all from my roots - Tibetan culture. Shambhala is a landmark in my career."

Wanma Jiancuo's name means "sea of wisdom" in the Tibetan language, and was conferred by his father, who was the director of Song and Dance Troupe of Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and the only choreographer in the troupe then.

His father hoped he will carry on his career. However, Wanma Jiancuo says that it was not love at first sight with dance.

Running with friends among mountains and grasslands, he had a happy and close-to-nature childhood.

His father sent him to a kung fu class at Minzu University of China, at age 12. However, when he enrolled he realized that kung fu was just one part of the classes and most courses were about dancing.

Though reluctant and unhappy, he studied there for six years and entered the folk dance department of the university.

"You know, I learned various dance genres, such as ballet, folk dance and modern dance, and the influences were unconscious," he says. "Dancing is like my second language."

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