About Susan

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dreams of Flamenco

While in Beijing not long ago I went, on a whim, to a Spanish tapas restaurant and bar in the lively Sanlitun (三里屯) district. There was a special performance by the instructors and students of a local flamenco dance studio, and the evening stirred up a long-ago desire to live the dream myself.

Flamenco is a percussive and passionate music and dance style from the Andalucia region of Spain (read its history!). It's difficult not to be entranced by the proud carriage of the dancers, from their sculpted back muscles to their intricate footwork. And there is, of course, the seduction of the music itself.

I've never studied flamenco dance, but it's one of my goals to do so.  I grew up watching the classical perennials Bizet's opera 'Carmen' and the oft-maligned ballet 'Don Quixote', which introduced me to the first flavors of Spanish dance and music as a small child. I am promising myself now that I will take a flamenco class before the year is out! In the meantime, I can always dream and play - the springboard leading to the realization of passions.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Earthbound Sylphs

'Spring Rain' (且吟春雨) is the name of this very feminine Han dance.  Interestingly, the costume has one long 'water sleeve' (水袖, shuixiu) instead of two, lending the dance a languorous quality. Water sleeves are an integral language of Peking Opera, but in dance the quality is pure estheticism or extended metaphor.  In 'Spring Rain', some movements required fast flicks of the wrist as the drums sounded in triumph; in other sections I luxuriated, sending the sleeve like a wave of perfume to float dreamily on the sweet erhu melody.

The costume brings visions of the Chinese version of the European sylph, those creatures from nature who herald the seasons and beckon mortal beings by their glittering transience. While I didn't feel quite that lovely while onstage, I reveled in the way my body and sleeve created ever-changing watercolors against the black backdrop.

There will be better photos of this costume, but here is one shot from a pose on the floor, an immediate hit-the-floor freeze after an exuberant leap.  The strange angle of the feet is quite precise; it had to be just so.  I admit it still feels odd to me since my aesthetic sensibilities were shaped by watching classical ballet as a child.  And yet, it makes the tableau a little more exotic, just a bit more otherworldly.