Fri, Mar 25, 2005 - Page 14 News List

Charmed by Dunhuang

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Dancers with the Gansu Dunhuang Art Theater perform Dunhuang Charm. The show will tour Taiwan all this week.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ARS FORMOSA

From the heart of the Gobi desert, the Gansu Dunhuang Art Theater brings a classic of Chinese ballet, Flower Rain on the Silk Road, to Taiwan for a week-long tour of the island.

The tour began last night at Taipei's Sun Yat-sen Memorial Center and will play again tonight in Banqiao.

Dunhuang lies at a crucial junction on the Silk Road, the ancient tangle of trails that stretch more than 7,000km from China to the Mediterranean and served as a highway for trading merchandise and mixing cultures: Chinese, Indian, Islam and Greek. By the 4th century , the road had made Dunhuang prosperous. It also made it an important stop for Buddhists and a destination for thousands of Buddhist monks from India.

Today, the best-known representatives of that time are the Mogao Caves, hundreds of shrines cut into a long cliff face some 25km outside the city. Monks began carving the caves in 366 AD and, in each of them, made intricate drawings and clay stuccoes of the Buddha as well as murals depicting the lives and cultures of the people who came to Dunhuang.

The site began to decline in the 12th century and slipped into obscurity until the 20th century. Of the thousands of caves carved by monks, nearly 500 remain.

The world-famous murals are the inspiration for Dunhuang Charm, with scenes from the cave walls coming to life on stage. The scenery and costumes, too, reflect the rich design and vibrant colors found in the Mogao Caves.

Flower Rain on the Silk Road was first performed in 1979 and has since become one of the most-staged ballets in the world. In 1982, the Gansu Dunhuang Art Theater had the honor of performing the ballet in Italy, a stage that helped launch the ballet's popularity around the globe. It's now been staged thousands of times both in and outside of China.

Songs like The Iraqi State (伊州) proclaim China's early presence on the world stage and are a key reason the ballet has become a favorite among Communist party apparatchiks. The ballet's original score has been placed in the Paris National Library.

Performance notes:

What: Dunhuang Charm, Flower Rain on the Silk Road

Time and place:

March 25: Taipei County Government Multi-purpose Hall, 3F, 161 Zhongshan Rd., Sec. 1, Banqiao, Taipei County (板橋市中山路一段161號3F).

March 26: Changhua County Yunlin Performing Arts Center.

March 27: Tainan City Cultural Center.

March 28: Tainan County Cultural Center.

March 29: Chiayi City Cultural Center Performing Arts Auditorium.

March 30: Kaohsiung City CKS Cultural Center Auditorium.

March 31: Taichung City Chungshan Hall.

Tickets: Cost from NT$300 to NT$1,200, depending on location. Contact Ars Formosa at (02) 2771 5676 or visit Web site at www.arsformosa.com.tw.

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