Chun-Yi: The Legend of Kung Fu

Chun-Yi

Chun Yi: The Legend of Kung Fu
January 4 –
11, 2006
Vancouver's
Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Imagine
what would happen if kung fu experts learned to dance, and Chinese
classical dancers choreographed martial arts, and some chinese gymnasts
were given Cirque du Soleil equipment and special effects, and
everything came together to create a multi-discplinary show.  In
this case, the result is based on the story of Chun-Yi “The Pure One,”
about a young boy who becomes a Shaolin Temple Monk.

Sixty-five kung fu practitioners, dancers and acrobats
from 13 provinces of China, perform in telling the story about how the
young man must got through personal challenges of temptation that
threaten his abilitiy to master the Kung Fu discipline. But in the end
all is well.  As the chinese proverb says, each journey begins
with a single step, the process is always more important that the
result.

And what a beautiful process this work of gorgeous sets and spectacular
stage effects is!  Combined with traditional martial arts
movements with
evocative dance, ballet and flying acrobatics.

I watched this exciting show with two viewpoints.  With one eye I
marvelled at the abilities of the performers, the inventive use of sets
and the unfolding of the story.  With the other eye I saw my
memories of learning about martial arts as a youth, as well as a youth
growing up in Canada with very few possible role models of being Asian.

But
somewhere in my memories were recollections of tacky Chinese theatre,
cantonese and martial arts displays.  Chun Yi: The Legend of Kung
Fu leaves all those old memories at home, and can easily be said to be
on the same professional levels as many Broadway shows or operas. 
The scale is huge, with moving sets that create the illusion of palaces
and dream sequences.  While some of the acting and dancing appears
to be overwrought and simplistic, it is also highly stylistic too.

The
young Chun Yi, does a pas de deux dance with his mother, as she
prepares to leave him at the Monastery to learn Kung Fu.  The
young boy is reluctant and runs back repeatedly after his mother. 
Two young boys from the monastery come up and persuade Chun Yi to stay
and play with them, as they perform their own jumps and kicks, that
captures the newcomer's attention.

And
so it was in the audience.  During intermission, I talked with
friends in the audience who were amazed at the acrobatic feats, as well
as the Kung Fu fighting.  They had never before seen Cantonese
opera with its many gymnastic routines, or the Action-Musicals put on
by Dennis Law at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, such as
Terracotta Warriors, Heartbeat or Heaven and Earth.  And so my
cultural thoughts wondered at the possibilities that when China starts
allowing more of its martial artists, ballet dancers and artistic
directors, will we see an artistic revolution in the arts, as more and
more ideas are exchanged?  Could a traditional western opera be
staged with kung fu battles, Chinese gynmastics and dance.

“We are creating something new in Beijing. We're creating something new
for China and the world!” says
Cao Xiaoning, president of China Heaven Creation, the company behind creating this production in anticipation of cultural preparations for the 2008 Olympics, which will also include Martial Arts as an Olympic event.

While
the story is not completely literal, and the “dream” sequences where
Chun-Yi was tempted by a beautiful woman, it is easy to understand the
plot development.

By
seeing more productions like this in Vancouver, we can find artistic
and enjoyable ways to learn about one of the world's more interesting
and oldest cultures and traditional arts.  I know that I am
learning about more Chinese culture.

more later….


To view an 8-minute promo video: Click here.

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