About Susan

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.
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