Jiaozhou children trip the light fantastic at Paris evening gala
A group of children from Jiaozhou, a county-level city under the administration of Qingdao, Shandong province, performed yangko (a popular rural folk dance) at an evening gala in Issy-les-Moulineaux, outside Paris on Jan 27, in celebration of the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France.
Yangko was added to China's list of national intangible cultural heritage in 2006. The dance features boldly twisting waists and upbeat music to express the joy and cheerfulness of dancers.
The art was born in a small village of Jiaozhou 300 years ago, so the city is also known as the Town of Yangko.
The children performed twice at the gala. One was a group dance in the final part of the program. In the other dance, they performed together with an 11-yearold French singer.
Yangko, along with tai chi, face-changing stunts from Sichuan Opera, Shaolin kung fu and other traditional Chinese performances, was brought to the stage, as important parts of the cultural exchanges between the two countries.
The team was invited two weeks before the gala. "We're happy to be invited. We're looking forward to yongko going global," said Jia Peili, director of the arts department of the Jiaozhou Culture Center.
Jia said they trained hard within limited time. "Our students were busy preparing for their final exam at school so they had to practice in their spare time. Everyone has tried his or her best."
Quan Huilin, one of the young dancers, said: "We're glad to dance in Paris. The chance is very precious. We want to be inheritors of Jiaozhou Yangko."
In addition, paintings and calligraphy works created by 30 artists from Jiaozhou, as well as a 13.6-meter-long paper-cutting work, were also on display during the gala.
Yangko dancers from Jiaozhou attended the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, the 2011 Xi'an International Horticultural Exposition, and cultural events in celebration of the 19th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and South Korea.
The local government has invested more than 400 million yuan ($59.57 million) in intangible cultural heritage protection in recent years, officials said.
The city invested 120 million yuan to build a Chinese Yangko City whose features include a theater, main square, school and folk culture pavilion.
The yangko art troupe was equipped with cars, mobile stage vehicles, lighting and audio equipment, following up to 1 million yuan in government aids.
Jiaozhou also promotes yangko-themed festivals, competitions, exhibitions, related textbooks and the training of professionals. Currently, the city has seven private yangko training schools and more than 30 training programs, which train about 1,500 students every year.