Artists perform a traditional Shaoxing opera, also called Yue Ju, for the audience at the Bonita Center for the Arts in San Dimas, Los Angeles County, the United States, on August 6, 2022. (Photo by James Mao/Xinhua)
by Julia Pierpont III
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) — Hundreds of culture-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, the hall was thronged with toddlers in fabulous party dresses and their elegant mothers in silk, embroidered Chinese dresses, as well as indulgent dads on a family fun outing.
The artists performed some excerpts from the traditional Shaoxing opera, also called Yue Zhu, including “The Peony Pavilion” and “Butterfly Lovers” for the audience for more than two hours. Richly costumed characters sang in their signature high-pitched vocals, using graceful hand and body movements with some comical dialogue.
Shaoxing Opera is one of the most popular Chinese opera genres.
Hosted by the Chinese American Musicians Association of China, the largest, most authoritative and professional association of Chinese musicians in North America, the event is the opening ceremony of the 5th US Legacy Festival, an international art festival and competition aimed at to “promote and improve Chinese culture, Chinese and Western music and traditional arts, help international communication, and give a platform and stage to outstanding artists displaying their talent.”
It aims to provide a high-level stage to enable outstanding artists to display their diverse artistic talent and to enable Chinese and Western artists to create and collaborate together in traditional and new art forms.
The festival committee invited musicians, playwrights, artists, dancers and teachers as guest performers and judges of the competition.
“All of us will be very proud to inherit Chinese and American culture and art and contribute to world art,” Ye Jin, vice president of the China American Association of Chinese Musicians and a pipa performer, said in a press release.
Chinese traditional drama combines song, dance, music, poetry, acrobatics, colorful costumes, elaborate make-up and even martial arts, all of which take performers years of intensive training to master. The musicians backing the singers’ performances respond to synchronized cues from the performers, allowing them to work in harmony to create a sensitive musical accompaniment that enhances the experience for the entire audience.
The festival and pageant committee hopes that the event will continue to promote Chinese traditional culture in the City of Angels and enable Chinese culture to “shine on the international stage and provide the audience with an unforgettable cultural and musical experience.”
Supported largely by parents and grandparents, efforts are being made to reach and re-engage younger generations of artists who tend 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 exotic face paint – more than the singing,” Sophie M., an American student at UCLA majoring in drama, told Xinhua. “It’s fascinating to see how different cultures approach live performance and multi-generational storytelling.”
“You’ll never get to see this in most places in America, but the strong Chinese-American community here in Los Angeles keeps this interesting tradition alive for everyone to enjoy,” said Richard L., a Los Angeles filmmaker. , to Xinhua.
Attendees were also welcomed by the Chinese Consul General in Los Angeles, Zhang Ping, who congratulated the festival organizers and participants for their good work in preserving traditional Chinese culture and creating opportunities to build unique cross-cultural bridges.
Los Angeles County Administrator Hilda Solis summed it up in a letter: “The residents of Los Angeles County applaud your dedication to promoting Chinese culture with an emphasis on unity, diversity and inclusion.”
“At a time when hate crimes against AAPIs (Asian American Pacific Islanders) are on the rise, these values are more important in our community than ever. Your commitment to celebrating art and culture will have a lasting impact on the San Gabriel Valley for generations to come,” she continued.
The San Gabriel Valley, known for its large Asian-American community, is home to more than half of Los Angeles County’s Chinese-American population. ■