Feature: Bridging cultures through music and dance

2024-July-8 14:48 By: Xinhua

FUZHOU, July 4 (Xinhua) -- "It's a beautiful event for me. It's really an honor to share the stage with so many great musicians. They have a really strong voice and we had a really nice time," said American opera singer Carla Dirlikov Canales, dressed in traditional Chinese attire, at the evening gala of "Bond with Kuliang: 2024 China-U.S. Youth Festival."

The event, held in Fuzhou, the capital city of east China's Fujian Province, marked the largest and most diversified youth exchange program since China and the United States established diplomatic ties.

Located in the suburbs of Fuzhou, Kuliang is a hillside resort where many stories of China-U.S. friendships have been told. The climax of the event was the cross-cultural performance jointly presented by dozens of young artists from both countries as the event drew to a close in late June.

Since 2011, Canales has visited China multiple times. Earlier this year, she was designated as a senior advisor and envoy for cultural exchange with the U.S. President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Atop the stage, Canales performed a solo from "Carmen" for the audience before joining Chinese artists in singing "I Love You, China" in Chinese with the closing performance "Pursuing the Dream in Kuliang."

Five students and alumni from the Curtis Institute of Music in the United States, known for nurturing uniquely talented young musicians, performed Chinese pieces "Big Fish" and "Jasmine Flower."

"During my studies, I often introduced traditional Chinese music to my American classmates and found they increasingly enjoyed playing these pieces with me," said Ruan Yangyang, a young pianist from Fujian and a Curtis alumnus. This was his first public performance alongside American classmates. "Music is also a language, and through such performances, I hope to express emotions and help more people around the world understand Chinese culture."

Romain Olivier Gray, a cellist at Curtis said "Less than a year ago, I played 'Jasmine Flower' for the first time. It's a beautiful piece, and sounds very traditional Chinese."

"The combination of musical styles from China and the U.S. would strongly communicate our bond. I feel that many people would be greatly inspired by this, since music speaks to the soul," Gray added.

"In my 26 years of professional career, this is the first time I have participated in a concert featuring joint performances by Chinese and American artists. The quality of the American performances even exceeded my expectations," said Liu Tieying, a director of the Fujian Opera and Dance Drama Theater.

The closing song, "Pursuing the Dream in Kuliang," commemorates the friendship between the peoples of China and the United States.

"We originally planned to have four Chinese singers perform it, but after learning the plan Canales and the soprano Erin Guinup volunteered to join their Chinese counterparts," Liu recounted. With less than a month until the performance, the two American artists worked hard to master the song in Chinese.

In September 1984, Fujian Province and the state of Oregon officially established a sister province/state relationship.

Cheryl Myers, Oregon's deputy secretary of state, said at the youth festival opening ceremony that over two dozen young people representing the Oregon rhythmic gymnastics team attended the event.

"This demonstrates our unwavering commitment to the long-term relationship between Fujian and Oregon, and our shared optimism for the future," said Myers.

During the evening gala, students from the Oregon Rhythmic Gymnastics and Dance Academy performed two routines, receiving enthusiastic applause from the audience.

"They worked extremely hard. Things did not go well during the rehearsal the day before the performance, this was due to jet lag and fatigue from participating in other youth festival activities, and several kids were very anxious. While others were rehearsing, they continued practicing in the hallway. I consoled them and arranged for more practice time on stage," Liu said.

During the gala, Liu added that their technique, sense of dance, and confidence had greatly improved, which moved him.

Samantha McManama, a 12-year-old from the Oregon academy, described her first trip to China as "great and amazing."

"I feel our rhythmic should show as a bridge, creating a new opportunity to make friends and bond over different performing arts," she added.

Eden Kaplan, McNamara's 17-year-old teammate, was on her second visit to China. "I was pretty young when I went the first time, so I don't remember much. It's nice coming back being able to practice my Chinese more and to recognize things I remembered from before," she said.

Kaplan added that her team performed America's popular style of dance while the Chinese peers performed China's "super popular styles of dance."

During the gala, some of Fujian's best artists showcased performances with Chinese characteristics including "Flying Dragons and Leaping Tigers" and "Tea-Picking Lantern."

"It's really interesting to see the differences and also the similarities between the two types and be able to share that with people from a whole other country across the world. It's super special," she told Xinhua.

"I could feel that each American artist deeply values the opportunity to perform together on the same stage," Liu said.

Zeng Bao from Fujian Media Group hosted the evening gala. Backstage, she greeted and congratulated the participants of each program with smile.

Despite her extensive experience in bilingual hosting, she said she had never seen so many young American artists taking the stage.

"I think this was a really good exchange. Many elements of the night's performance reflected what we share in common. Music knows no borders, dance knows no borders, and the passion of young people to understand each other is also without borders."

Editor: WRX
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