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UPDATED: 14:12, June 25, 2004
"Through dancing, we communicate with gods"
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In April, Beijing is hosting the wildly popular Broadway musical Cats, alongside a grand song and dance performance of southwestern ethnic style from Yunnan province.

"I was deeply touched by the innate flavor of the dancing and singing of these ethnic people, which wakened something deep in myheart, indigenous but pure and simple," said a 25-year-old civil servant surnamed Hao in Beijing.

Named Dynamic Yunnan, the performance is another masterpiece of Yang Liping, who directs and heads the cast.

"Dancing for me is such a natural thing, just like eating and sleeping. It has become an expression of my life. That's just the way Dynamic Yunnan was created," said Yang.

Yang, a very popular dancer of ethnic Bai group from Xishuangbanna of southwestern Yunnan province, began her career atthe age of 13 and has been dancing for over 30 years.

"All my inspiration came from the folk dancing and singing of my ethnic folks. For them, dancing and singing are just the natural expression way of their affection and inner world feelings," said Yang.

Without any professional training, Yang has become China's most famous dancer for her superb dancing talent, especially the graceful and lovely peacock dancing she created herself.

"Dancing is just life itself. By observing and studying how butterflies flap their wings and the fire flaring, I can imitate their movements with my body," noted Yang.

"From imagination to body movements, it's such an easy and natural thing for me," said Yang.

For this performance, Yang has spent over a year going far into Yunnan province, which is home to 51 of China's 55 ethnic groups, to collect and sort out folk music and dance pieces and to seek out talented dancers and singers.

More than 75 percent of the performers are local peasant farmers Yang discovered in outlying villages of Yunnan and most ofthem are from ethnic groups including Yi, Miao, Tibetan, Dai, Bai,Va and Hani.

"Before joining in Yang's troupe, I had been farming in my village," said Aiqing, a young man of Va ethnic group, who impressed the audience with his vigorous and dynamic dancing.

But offstage, Aiqing is a young man shy and unskilled in standard Chinese pronunciation. At the age of 25, Aiqing still hasthe unsophisticated eyes and smile seldom seen on the faces of today's Chinese urban youth.

"We dance on the occasion of weddings, funerals, festivals and other ceremonies. From birth, dancing is a part of the Va people's life," said Aiqing.

The performance lasting 120 minutes consists of seven parts with varied themes including Cloud, Sun, Moon, Forests, Fire, Mountain and Feather in turn.

"Dynamic Yunnan exhibits the most indigenous, vivid and original ethnic folk art. It's a great move made by Yang and her troupe in preserving and publicizing China's ethnic culture endangered with the encroachment of industrialization," said Prof.Pan Zhitao, of Chinese ethnic folk dances with the Beijing Institute of Dancing.

Not only the music, but also the costumes and stage props are all real ones of the ethnic people.

The Song and Dance of the Huayao Tribe of Yi ethnic group, a bright spot of Scene Two, arrested the audience not only with the splendid singing but also the beautiful, graceful costumes, all sewed up by those singing girls themselves, each set costing four to five years.

In the Yanhe Dance of the Yi ethnic group, young men and women express their affection for each other by dancing imitating matingbehaviors of animals.

"It's fantastic. The performance is similar to the folk music in my country, original but natural and dynamic," said Komidor, ambassador of Cameroon in China.

"I'm deeply impressed by Yang and her troupe's performance. It's so beautiful. Although it's of Chinese ethnic culture, I'm sure our people will enjoy it especially those living in big cities," said Mavri Santino, a businessman from Italy.

"The performance originates from the people and comes from the real life, that's why the audience is so touched and fascinated. Yang's exploitation and creation in art will be of vital significance in the preservation and development of China's folk art," said Prof. Pan.

After its first performance in Kunming, capital of Yunnan, lastAugust, Dynamic Yunnan has been played for 129 audiences in many cities of China. During it's period in Beijing from April 10 to April 16, seven performances will be available.

Most tickets have been sold days before the performance, according to the organizers. Dynamic Yunnan will show overseas under the name "Looking for Shangri-La".

"When I was young, my grandma told me that dancing is a way of communicating with God. I finally realized what she meant after dancing for so many years. Now when I am dancing, I have the feeling that God is touching my hands and arms. This is how my soul gets comfort and peace," said Yang.

Source: Xinhua

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