Traveling through the Yunnan province in China left me with a lot of mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was a wonderful experience and I’m glad I did it. With most of the Chinese ethnic minorities living here, there is a very rich mix of cultures to be found here. It’s a place filled with centuries old traditions and ways of living, while at the same time, it is also in constant transformation as it clashes with the new, more modern and bolder China. Sometimes positive, sometimes negative.
On the other hand, the whole trip was also mentally and physically very straining. Many of the people here are very poor and live in crowded and filthy conditions. Despite having grown up in some of the least developed nations on this planet, even I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock I had to experience in the rural areas. And so after three weeks, I was glad to be going home to some peace, quiet and personal space.
But before we left, we went off to see one more show in Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan. It was a dance performance by a group called Dynamic Yunnan and choreographed by Yang Liping (杨丽萍). She is known in China for her Peacock Dance which she performed as well. Inspired by the traditional music and dances from around the province, she had created about ten different dance acts, but each time with a modern twist to it. It was an impressive spectacle with at times over forty dancers on stage. It’s quite possible that the story line connecting all the different dances into something meaningful (the use of colors seemed to indicate as such), but even after three weeks, my Chinese wasn’t up to speed yet.
There were guards present in the theater preventing anyone from filming anything. But I did manage to find a few fragments of the show online. The Moon Dance was the second act. Yang Liping herself is the silhouette in the performance. Though the quality isn’t that great, here is another act I enjoyed: Country of Daughters. Strange, yes, but I particularly like the costumes and almost hypnotic music that went with it. And thanks to the internet, I also now what they were singing about. The lyrics:
The sun wants to rest, it can rest.
The moon wants to rest, it can rest.
Women want to rest, they can’t rest.*
If women rest, the fire will burn out.
Cold wind blows at the elderly, and women use their backs to block it.
Splinter in child’s feet, and women use their heart to pad it.
If there is a woman there, the old and the young will stay together.
If there is a woman there, the mountain may crumble and men will hold it up.
If there is no women under the heavens, the sky will not light.
If there is no women on the earth, the grass will not grow.
If a man does not have a woman, the man will be ill.
If there is no women under the heavens, there will be no men.
The performance in general was of a very high standard. It was nothing like the Yunnan I had seen in the past three weeks. It did however remind me of some of the Chinese films of recent, such as ‘Hero’ (mind fight) and ‘House of Flying Daggers’ (Beauty Dance & Echo Game). After having seen Dynamic Yunnan, I was at least able to leave China on a positive note. And with that, I leave you with the Two Tree dance.
* While it is true that in many places around the world — especially where poverty prevails — society would come to a complete standstill if it were not for the hard work of women; It was a strange discovery to bicycle into one of the villages just outside of old town Dali where we found the gender roles had been switched. Within this Naxi ethnic minority, it’s the women who are in charge. While they hang out on the streets gossiping and enjoying the care free life, it is up to the men to do the house keeping and take care of the children.