In a dance drama that has enthralled audiences since its 2014 premiere, the Shanghai Dance Theatre presents Soaring Wings: Journey of the Crested Ibis in their Boston debut, January 11–12.
Through choreography by the esteemed Tong Ruirui, Soaring Wings tells the tale of the majestic and nearly-extinct bird, the crested ibis, from their free nesting to danger through urbanization, to their freedom once again, all allegorically promoting harmony between man and nature. Soaring Wings: Journey of the Crested Ibis a special and eye-opening performance that the Journal highly recommends to all dancers, fans of art and those who appreciate culture.
Artistic Director Chen Feihua and Principal Dancer Zhu Jiejing spoke with The Boston Dance Journal about the dance drama’s spectacular artistry and the company’s hopes for their U.S. tour.
Boston Dance Journal: What made you choose to bring Soaring Wings: Journey of the Crested Ibis on tour?
Chen Feihua: As an artwork reflecting the reality, the dance drama Soaring Wings adopts the internationally protected bird crested ibis as the theme, and calls upon all human beings to focus on environmental protection, to attach more importance to the problems in development and to embrace the view of sustainable development. It convinces audiences with great power, which is universal, international and transnational.
The U.S. tour of Soaring Wings in America not only brings an experience of appreciating marvelous dance drama, but also arouses resonance and inspiration. It shows the idea that human beings shall live in harmony with nature, respect nature, conform to nature and protect nature. At the same time, it is also an opportunity to display Chinese dance culture and advance American audience's understanding for Chinese national culture and acknowledgement for Chinese people's idea of peace, friendship and green development.
BDJ: What does this dance drama mean to you, personally?
CF: The dance drama Soaring Wings is inspired by my visit to [the] Shanghai Expo in 2010. I was inspired by the beautiful crested ibises on the screen. Wandering and flying, they were purely beautiful, elegant, spotless and noble, especially their actions of "paddling," "resting" and "flying." They were like dancers' excellent performance. Then it came into my mind to put crested ibises on the stage and that idea can’t get out of my head again.
After my four years' hard work, Soaring Wings made its debut in 2014. In the past three years, it has been performed for 200 sessions and attracted more than 300,000 audiences. Soaring Wings became a local hot cultural topic everywhere it was showed. A number of people flooded into theaters and were impressed deeply. It is called "the phenomenon of Soaring Wings.”
Soaring Wings is like my kid. Discussion, research, rehearsal, action refinement, choreography, performance and polishing—all are unforgettable memory in more than 2,000 days and nights.
Zhu Jiejing: For me, Soaring Wings is like a gift from heaven to me. To perform in such a wonderful production [is something] every dancer dreams [of]. For three years, the bird and I witnessed each other’s growth. I [felt] lucky enough to meet this role who seemed to be tailor-made for myself, [but] I gradually realized that it might be the crested ibis somehow chose me, chose my body as its carrier to let more people know it, understand it, concern it and care for it.
BDJ: Zhu, how do you prepare yourself for the role of the Crested Ibis, mentally and physically?
ZJ: Physically, I created an exclusive dance language for crested ibis by imitating and capturing the gesture of the birds. Psychologically, I don’t put myself in the position of an interpreter or performer, but I regard myself as crested ibis itself, feel its heart in the view of bird, experience its encounter and finally let the audience believe that I am the [actual] crested ibis.
BDJ: What is challenging about this role, and what is exciting about it?
ZJ: At present, my biggest challenge is whether I [am spiritually] fit and [that my] soul exchange[s] with the crested ibis. In every city and country I visit, local audiences will marvel at the beauty of the crested ibis. To let the world know the auspicious bird of the East through our performances is a very exciting and happy thing for me.
BDJ: What will Boston learn about Chinese culture and dance by watching this show?
CF: Soaring Wings shows the ancient Eastern aesthetics. Onstage, beautiful and tranquil pictures are accompanied by melodious music. It is like in paradise. The graceful and elegant performance of dancers displays the crested ibis' beauty, cleanness, elegance and nobility. A poetic and picturesque expression is displayed.
The beauty of Soaring Wings lies in its beautiful dance. It uses special dance framework to express emotionally persistent pursuit for life, freedom and living. It is of pure beauty, a beauty of life's ideal. Essentially, it respects and loves life and environment, which is an interpretation and understanding to beauty in Chinese culture.
ZJ: Art in China is not just Peking Opera. Dance in China does not stop in ancient times. I hope that overseas audiences can better learn and understand the art development in contemporary China after watching Soaring Wings. Looking to the future, we are thinking about our relationship with nature, environment and all kinds of creatures. We are working in an artistic way for the common good homeland of mankind.
The Shanghai Dance Theatre will perform Soaring Wings: Journey of the Crested Ibis at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre, January 11–12. Purchase tickets now >>