Gansu Dance Theater in "Silk Road"
A glorious assault of light, color, and sound, "Silk Road" is a testament to the capacity of culture to translate across time, space and country. The China Gansu Dance Theater has ambitiously taken on the task of retelling the story of the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that at its peak linked parts of North Africa, Asia, and Europe. Taking the form of family drama, "Silk Road" is about the love of a father for his kidnapped daughter.
Broken into eight acts, "Silk Road" moves swiftly between scenes each made unique with the use of distinct costumes, music, and set. Beginning in a stunning Buddhist temple, the audience finds master painter Shenbi Zhang, played by the magnificent An Ning, dutifully at work.
The performance quickly shifts and the audience is soon mesmerized by a barren desert where a Persian businessman, Yunus, has collapsed in a sand storm. Shenbi Zhang and his daughter Yingniang rush to aid Yunus. In the process, they are intercepted by bandits, led by Song Yulong as chief bandit Dou Hu, Yingniang is subsequently taken captive. Thus begins the epic story of a father’s search for his missing daughter.
The beautifully crafted story spans space and time, inviting the audience to explore mythic palaces and lush gardens through dance. Shenbi Zhang pays the ultimate price to see his daughter, causing Yingniang to seek justice. At a glamorous gala, Yingniang disguised as a dancer, accuses the man who held her captive and murdered her father. Dou Hu and his co-conspirators are captured and made to pay for their cruel crimes.
Glorious scenery, outstanding costumes, and tremendous performances from all involved make "Silk Road" a magnificent journey. Choreography aside, the scenery and costuming alone are worth accolades. Ornate, interact, and with colors that exist beyond the imagination, the costumes and scenery clearly indicate the level of dedication that went into the production of "Silk Road." Beautiful woven fabrics and jewels adorn the dancers as they move, one would be so lucky to wear such carefully handcrafted garments.
With some choreographic elements that are similar to pop-and-lock, break dance and classical ballet, "Silk Road" speaks to the power of cultural transition, how elements of a culture can traverse both perceived and real boundaries.
Done with great athleticism, the dancers perform a demanding sequence that they make look effortless. It is awe striking to consider the psychical requirements of such a performance. To dance for nearly two hours, beneath hot lights and under close observation is amazing, and to make it look easy is outstanding.
An Ning, who played master painter Shendi Zhang, delivered an exceptional performance. You will wait with baited breath for the next moment in which he will grace the stage. He moves with great elegance, a masterful lightness and energy that are unmatched.
Absolutely stunning is An Ning’s delivery. As a feather floats through air, An Ning moves through space with ownership and delicacy. He illuminates life when he moves and it is a glorious illumination. Words cannot fully capture his capacity on stage.
Also outstanding was Song Yulong as chief bandit Dou Hu. Song Yulong fully animates his character bringing a drama and life to it that is unmatched. From his facial expressions to his walk, Song Yulong has created a memorable and distinct figure. Audiences will enjoy the character of Dou Hu as he is a comical villain; frightening, agile, and yet interesting.
Rounding off the tremendous leading cast are Chen Chen who beautifully depicted the painter’s daughter Yingniang and the wonderful Huang Deshuang who played the Persian merchant Yunus. Chen Chen provided the audience with an elegant depiction of Yingniang.
With unimaginable flexibility and grace, Chen Chen is a sparkling jewel within the performance. Stunning to watch Huang Deshuang, as Yunus, performs a multitude of quick repetitive spins. One can only imagine the grueling nature of such a move, but Huang Deshuang consistently performs with great energy and zeal.
The true crime is that "Silk Road" has a limited engagement. An exciting display of dance and color, "Silk Road" is an enjoyable experience for everyone. No matter what, audience members will find something that draws and excites him or her about the "Silk Road."
"Silk Road" runs through Mar. 3 at The David H. Koch Theater Lincoln Center, 20 Lincoln Center. For more information or tickets, call 212-496-0600 or visit www.davidhkochtheater.com.