“Carnival China Style” U.S. tour showcases old and new culture from all over China

These dancers are just paert of the 70-person touring troupe for "Carnival China Style" that will perform in Denver on Jan. 13, 2010.

UPDATE: THIS EVENT IS NOW FREE! (Ticketmaster processing charges still apply)

It probably irks Chinese people to no end that their centuries of culture is often crammed into just a couple of off-hand images: Bruce Lee and martial arts, Chairman Mao holding up his Little Red Book, Jackie Chan and martial arts, the traditionalist flash of a Beijing Opera performer in full makeup and drag, Jet Li and martial arts. Oh, and martial arts of any kind, whether or not it’s from China. The mainstream American consciousness seems to be oblivious to the depth and richness of Chinese culture, and to its vast variety.

But Chinese culture spans a huge area and a long timeline. Remember, China is so big and diverse that it even has seven separate groups of language dialects. A Chinese person from Beijing may not be able to understand someone from Hong Kong, because Mandarin is spoken in Beijing and Cantonese in Hong Kong.

The country’s government has been on an international campaign since before last year’s Beijing Olympics to educate the world about all of China. Because the country’s taking over the world stage as a economic power (by most accounts, it’ll eclipse Japan as the world’s second-largest economy in 2010, second only to the U.S.), it’s been keen to promote cultural exchanges and send performers halfway around the world. You can expect this public-relations campaign to continue through at least next year’s 2010 World Expo, which will be held in Shanghai.

The ongoing effort to showcase China’s riches is great for those of us who are interested in the breadth of its culture.

Here in Denver we have a rare opportunity to catch a spectacle of an event, “Carnival China Style,” that will bring 70 performers and support staff from all over China to the U.S. and Canada starting after the new year. A Denver stop’s been announced for Wed. Jan. 13 at 7 pm at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the classy auditorium at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

Other stops on the tour include Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago, St. Paul, Denver, San Francisco, Sacramento, Reno, Seattle and other cities. President Obama enjoyed some of the performers traveling in this troupe during his recent visit to China.

The evening of entertainment is based on a Chinese traditional festival format and it’ll highlight the long history, grace, beauty, populism, diversity and folk nature of Chinese culture. The evening won’t just be traditional dance and music, either.

There’s a segment featuring Wang Feng, a popular rock star in China, and even the woman who hold the Guinness World Record for twirling the most hula hoops at once. Who knew that’s a Chinese cultural heritage?

Here are some descriptions from the event’s press release:

Quality programs such as national vocal music, dance, opera, folk music, acrobatics, painting and calligraphy show and the original ecological combination have brought out the best in each other. The art essences of Han, Uygur, Mongolian, Tibetan, Miao, Yi and other nationalities are brilliant.

Among the performances during the evening is a set by Wang Feng, a popular rock performer in China, with many CDs available. CARNIVAL CHINA STYLE will introduce his contemporary star appeal for the first time to American audiences.

The classical “Xianghe Song” is the perfect combination of ancient Chinese music, poetry and dance, it is noble, elegant and beautiful; the original natural dance

“Miaonv” is genuine, simple and smart, letting the audience taste an honest and imaginative Southwest style.

“Modern Soft Virtuosity” performed by Liu Jiayin and Bai Chunpu inherits the essence of traditional Chinese acrobatics, and has a unique artistic style and sense of innovation, with very difficult skills and elegant modeling; Jin Linlin is included in World Celebrities of the Guinness World Records in hula hoop performances, suspending in the air and dancing like silver snakes.

The combination singing of the Snow Lotus from Tibetan is like sound of nature, with strong ethnic style and modern sense; the cheerful, simple, gently but full of rich local flavor song of natural singers, Lihuai Fu and Li Huaixiu, is welcomed by people.

Rouzi-Amuti’s songs “Far, Far Away” and Girls In Daban Town integrate dynamic modern music with rhythms, dance performances, and instrumental ensembles, lively and enthusiastic.

Wei Jindong, Sa Renhu, Sheng Yan, Yue Lu’s singing, show the rich and distinctive style of folk music.

Wu Qiong’s Huangmei Drama is like beads off jade plate, with lingering sound curl, showing the essence of the national drama.

“Yuefu Huayun” melts the essence of Chinese culture such as painting, music and dance, as a whole, highlighting the fine Chinese culture with melodious tweedle and freely splash-ink painting.

Folk Instrumental ensemble “Dance Under The Moon” vividly demonstrates the wealth of expressive Chinese musical instruments and unique charms. Guest percussion and bass players from abroad are invited to join the performance to rearrange modern pop music elements and techniques, which reflecting the openness and compatibility of Chinese music.

Famous guqin concert performer Jiang Kemei’s Jinghu and dance, “Deep Night”, is one of the classic folk music played enduringly.

Jiang Kemei delicates an elegant and generous playing style with consummate musical skills, and gives new artistic heights and appealing in Chinese style, and the performance is soul-stirring.

Here’s the poster for Carnival, China Style.

The details: The Chinese American Association of the Rocky Mountain Region and Confucius Classroom of Denver will host “CARNIVAL CHINA STYLE,” a very special performance on January 13, 2010 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver performing Arts Complex, 15th and Curtis St., Denver, CO 80204. Doors open at 6 pm and the show begins at 7 pm. Tickets cost from $25-$125 are FREE and are available through Ticketmaster, 866-448-7849, Ticketmaster.com.

(Full disclosure: Erin and I are helping to publicize this event, but it’s the kind of thing we’d support anyway as members of Denver’s AAPI community.)

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