Red Poppies review – A Junction of Theatrics, Cultural Heritage, and Dance

Building a surge of intensity with the sound of Tibetan Longhorns and powerfully percussive beats, Red Poppies reveals a wealth of cultural heritage and dance through a theatrical performance.

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Making its fourth run in Hong Kong, this collaboration project between Hong Kong Dance Company and Sichuan Province Song and Dance Theatre Company adapts a traditional Tibetan tale written by Alai into a dance drama.

Depicting the story of a ruling family torn by power and ethics, this epic dance drama pairs cultural traditions with a timeless story that poses relevance to our world today.

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At first, the movements choreographed by Liu Lingli appear to be unfamiliar to our everyday understanding of modern-day dance vocabulary, occupied by crouched postures, wide boisterous stances and large waddling strides. Overtime, spectacular turns, swift jumps, and flips begin to catch our eyes. Creating the perfect timeline for story development, Red Poppies blends drama, love and morals into a full-length evening performance.

Just like binge watching a Netflix series, a viewer cannot help but become totally absorbed into this world. Settling into this storyline crafted by dynamic movements, gestures, songs by Liang Zhongqi, text by Bai Xiaochuan, and extravagant props and sets, the performance takes various loops and turns.

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Regardless of whether or not a dance drama may be your cup of tea, the costume and set design in itself is worth witnessing. Designed by Cui Binghua, the costumes were so vibrant and lush with various layers, embellishments and intricate details. Watch out Fashion Week 2020! Truly an all or nothing set & props designer, Zhang Jiwen brings pure brilliance with the raining effect of wheat kernels that fall from the ceiling, creating a scenic backdrop.

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Hong Kong Dance Company’s very own Huang Lei danced with such strength, presence and commitment to his role of Chieftain Maichi. Lei embodied his character down to every detail, gesture and mannerism. The contrasting roles of the stark and stoic Elder Son and the klutzy but kind Younger Son were matched perfectly. A villainous performance was made by Zhu Zhuoran of Hong Kong Dance Company as he took on the role of the Elder Son. The Younger Son of this brother duo was performed by Pei Zihao of Sichuan Song and Dance Theatre Company. Bringing fire and finesse to the stage was the beautiful Tana, performed by Zhao Xiaojing of Sichuan Song and Dance Theatre Company. The pairing of these dance artists from two dance companies made for an exciting performance.

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Red Poppies is a junction for theatrics, cultural heritage, dance, music and art. Forming a new appreciation and understanding for art and culture, this was truly an outstanding performance!

Photo credits: Tony Lee & Henry Wong