The return of Marco Polo

10:25, December 22, 2010      

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Dance-drama Marco Polo.

Featuring different forms of dance and a variety of music, on a grand stage showcasing the glory of Yuan Dynasty (1271-1308), marks the rendering of Marco Polo.

In this dance-drama, recounting the Italian merchant's legendary involvement with the Middle Kingdom, a young man undertakes the famed traveler's arduous journey 700 years later in an imagined world.

The epic, the first original dance-drama by the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), will be presented at the center from today until next Tuesday to commemorate the third anniversary of its opening.

The performance does not literally replicate Polo's journey and his stay in the Yuan empire as recorded in Travels of Marco Polo. Instead, playwright Zhao Daming delivers an imaginary story in which an Italian youth, a fan of the explorer, assumes Polo's incarnation. Transcending space and time, he embarks on the same path followed by Polo centuries ago.

To make the four-act production more dramatic, Zhao has introduced a love element - between Polo and one of Kublai Khan's princesses; she has to give up her yearning for Polo and, for the sake of peace, marry a king from a defeated country.

"This tale is not entirely without basis. Historical records show that Marco Polo did accompany Kublai Khan's Princess Cocachin to Persia to make peace with the country. Of course, we are just not sure if there was romance between them," chief director Chen Weiya told the Global Times.

"We did this because we wanted a romantic flavor, not be limited to historical facts alone. Travels of Marco Polo is dream-like, with no verifiable evidence," he explained, adding that this approach gave the team more space for imagination and creativity.

A harmonious blend of Chinese and Western performing arts, the dance-drama is a mixture of ballet, modern dance and Mongolian dance and Western and imperial music of Yuan Dynasty. "To blend is not our ultimate purpose. I didn't mean to mix together different dances by putting on a show at NCPA. What I aim to do is to create a true-to-life portrait of a figure by using body language, a vibrant figure full of affection for the East, an Italian advocate of peace; and, a lovely, kind and young oriental princess," the renowned choreographer, Chen, said.

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