Jin Xing Dance Theatre Shanghai @ Dunstan Playhouse
7:00pm, Mon 1 Mar 2010
My extremely slack planning this year saw me purchasing most of my tickets extremely late; after giving the Festival Guide a thorough read, I was desperate to go to this particular session of Shanghai Beauty because of the scheduled talk to be held by Jin Xing after the performance.
Much has been written elsewhere about Jin Xing – born of Korean immigrants in China, his ability in dance saw him enlisted in the People’s Liberation Army Song & Dance Academy (where he rose through the ranks to attain the rank of Colonel by age 17). Having served scholarships in the US, he returned to China and, at age 27, he undertook three sex reassignment operations… this fact, alone, would have made the above-mentioned talk worthwhile (after all, how often do you get to hear discussion of the creative process within conservative China from a transgender lauded dancer?)
As usual, the fact that I go to most of these performances alone paid off; I managed to get the very last seat available for the performance. And then I learnt that the after-show talk was cancelled.
Still, it was with great anticipation that I took my lucky seat… on the Balcony, Row D5. Christ, it’s almost nose-bleed territory up there; I’ll certainly see any bald spots, I mused while waiting for the show to start.
And, to be quite honest (and demonstrably ignorant, complete with broad stereotypes), Shanghai Beauty was everything I expected. The dance was choreographed in an almost regimented manner, with the troupe (nine women, five men) parting to allow the lead dancers’ solo pieces in an almost reverent manner. The high-energy parts of the performance were fantastic, swinging arms and spinning bodies generating real excitement; but these very modern segments were also blended with more sedate and considered (presumably) traditional pieces, which failed to engage me as much. Sure, the precision of movement on display was exemplary, but it just lacked impact; then again, maybe that was just my physical remoteness from the performers.
Jin Xing herself only appeared at the very end of the event, though there were projected video pieces interspersed throughout the rest of the performance that showed her preparation – her makeup, the assisted application of her livery. And what an appearance it was; wrapped in an incredibly elaborate and colourful costume (in stark contrast to the drab and perfunctory garb of her troupe), she almost acted as a gravitational centre for the rest of the piece, a gentle milling in the background as she lit the stage up with colour and grace. But her physical contribution was all too brief, and the performance was over just when it felt like it was just starting; and that’s a bit of a shame, really, because I get the feeling that the memorable highlights of Shanghai Beauty were but a snippet of the potential of this group.