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Free as a firebird

By Ewa Manthey (Global Times)

10:50, October 18, 2012

A stage photo of Firebird (Photo: Courtesy of Shanghai International Arts Festival /GT)

Under the direction of the famous British choreographer Royston Maldoom, 130 Chinese and German teenagers have been rehearsing a dance work to be performed alongside a piece of classical music by Igor Stravinsky. And the results of this six-week project Harmony Shanghai can be seen in a performance at the Shanghai Grand Theatre on October 24. The work, called Firebird, is set to be one of the highlights of the Shanghai International Arts Festival and will mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Germany.

Social interaction

The main aim of the project is to cultivate interest and encourage young people to participate in dance. "We wanted to bring together young Germans living in Shanghai together with young Chinese: people from two very different cultures with two very different education systems," Maldoom told the Global Times. "Contemporary, expressive dance with its emphasis on physical, as well as emotional and intellectual activity, provides a very sophisticated form of social interaction."

Firebird is one of the famous scores by Stravinsky. "I love Stravinsky's music and Firebird is a wonderfully inspiring work and it is very beautiful," said Maldoom. "There are very recognizable characters and good storylines, although, despite using many of the elements in the Russian fable I have produced my own version."

Maldoom, whose credo is "you can change your life in a dance class," has been traveling the world for years teaching young people how to dance. And he is especially known for his passionate involvement in community dance. "The main motivation behind community dance is to bring people together. It means to dance with anyone at any time - irrespective of talent and experience, age and gender, color of skin, and ethnic or social background," Maldoom explained.

Night jobs

Maldoom, who originally intended to be a farmer, started dance classes when he was 21 in a small ballet school in Cambridge. Later on he studied at the Rambert School in London, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York, and the London Contemporary Dance School.

Maldoom said that one of the biggest obstacles while working with students for the Harmony Shanghai project was the language barrier.

"Especially for the Chinese students there was always a time-lapse between my words and instructions and the translation given by the interpreters," he said. "It meant a lack of immediacy at the beginning, but later they began to respond to my body language and the energy behind the words."

What can the Shanghai audience expect to see? "A spectacular and moving event, visually exciting with 130 young fresh energetic performers walking a tightrope of nervous energy but with enormous discipline and stage presence that will astonish many who are unaware of the extraordinary potential of these kids," said Maldoom.

Date: October 24, 7:30 pm
Venue: Shanghai Grand Theatre
Address: 300 People's Avenue, Shanghai
Tickets: 80 to 380 yuan
Call 400-106-8686 for details

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