Artists perform traditional Shaoxing opera, also known as Yue Ju, to audience at Bonita Center for the Arts in San Dimas, Los Angeles County, USA, on August 6, 2022. (Photo by James Mao/Xinhua)
by Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) — Hundreds of culturally minded people flocked to the Bonita Center for the Arts in San Dimas in the San Gabriel Valley over the weekend to enjoy an evening of traditional Chinese drama.
On Saturday, young children in fairy party dresses and their elegant mothers in silk embroidered Chinese robes and indulgent fathers crowded the auditorium for a fun family outing.
Artists presented the audience with some extracts from the traditional Shaoxing opera, also called Yue Ju, including “The Peony Pavilion” and “The Butterfly Lovers” in over two hours. Richly costumed characters sang in their signature high-pitched vocals and used graceful hand and body movements with some comical dialogue.
Shaoxing Opera is one of the most popular Chinese opera genres.
Hosted by the Sino-US Chinese Musicians Association, the largest, most authoritative and professional association of Chinese musicians in North America, the event is the opening ceremony of the 5 and to improve Chinese culture, Chinese and Western music and traditional arts, international communication support and give a platform and stage to outstanding artists who show their talents.”
It aims to provide a high-calibre stage to allow outstanding artists to showcase their diverse artistic talents and allow Chinese and Western artists to co-create and collaborate on traditional and new art forms.
The festival committee invited musicians, playwrights, artists, dancers and professors as guest performers and judges.
“We will all be very proud to inherit Chinese and American culture and arts and contribute to the arts of the world,” said Ye Jin, vice president of the Sino-US Chinese Musicians Association and Pipa artist, in a press release.
Traditional Chinese drama combines song, dance, music, poetry, acrobatics, colorful costumes, elaborate makeup, and even martial arts, which performers must study intensely for years to master. The musicians supporting the singers’ performances respond to synchronized cues from the performers, allowing them to work harmoniously together to create a sensitive musical accompaniment that enhances the experience for the entire audience.
The festival and competition committee hopes that the event will further promote traditional Chinese culture in the City of Angels and allow Chinese culture “to shine on the international stage and provide audiences with an unforgettable cultural and musical experience.”
Widely supported by parents and grandparents, efforts are being made to reach and re-engage younger generations of artists who are tending to embrace more modern forms of art and culture such as TikTok, Instagram, cinema and gaming.
“I come because I love the beautiful costumes and the exotic face paint – more than the singing,” Sophie M., an American acting major at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Xinhua. “It’s fascinating to see how different cultures approach live performance and intergenerational storytelling.”
“You would never see that in most places in America, but a strong Chinese-American community here in Los Angeles keeps this interesting tradition alive for everyone to enjoy,” Richard L., an LA-based filmmaker, told Xinhua.
Attendees were also welcomed by the Chinese Consul General in Los Angeles, Zhang Ping, who commended the festival organizers and attendees for their excellent work in preserving traditional Chinese culture and creating opportunities to build unique cross-cultural bridges.
Los Angeles County Superintendent Hilda Solis summed it up in a letter: “Los Angeles County residents commend your commitment to promoting Chinese culture with an emphasis on unity, diversity and inclusion.”
“At a time when hate crimes against the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) are on the rise, these values are more important than ever in our community. Her dedication to celebrating arts and culture will have a lasting impact on the San Gabriel Valley for generations to come,” she continued.
San Gabriel Valley, known for its large Asian American community, is home to more than half of Los Angeles County’s Chinese American population. ■