By Stephanie Bunbury
30 August 2019
It is no surprise to read that Yang Liping found it impossible to toe the line as part of the China Central Ethnic Song and Dance Ensemble. Yang, 60, whose dramatic dance works draw from the folkloric dances she learned as a small child growing up in rustic Yunnan province, is famous in China as the Peacock Princess. This may not be entirely to do with her masterly evocation of this spectacular bird in her first popular success, Spirit of the Peacock, which made her name in 1986.
Yang cuts a dramatic figure in fitted satin, heavy jewellery and nails like a 19th-century mandarin’s. She tells me, with a bit of a giggle, that she has been growing those extraordinary claws since 1979, ostensibly to give authentic performances of the Long-Nailed Dance. Most dancers use glittery fake fingernails, readily available online in boxes of 10: I checked. How does she get the lid off a jar? You get used to it, she tells the tour manager who is our linguistic go-between. China in 1979 was still the land of the Mao suit. Amid all that denim, Yang Liping must have looked like an explosion of silk, varnish and theatricality.
Two years ago, Yang came to Australia with Under Siege, a spectacular choreographic retelling of the Chu-Han Contention of 200 BC – an epic battle for supremacy between the Chu and Han armies that is one of China’s most important ‘‘origin’’ stories. It included kung fu, tai chi, hip-hop, Chinese opera and, of course, a spectacular set.
Read the full story in The Brisbane Times.