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China Festival a Big Hit in US

Visitors to the John F. Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts in Washington DC are in for a tour de force of Chinese arts as the centre began the largest celebration of Chinese arts in American history over the weekend.


In the coming four weeks, more than 800 performing artists from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan Province, and also the United States, will stage a variety of shows at the centre to demonstrate the many faces of traditional as well as contemporary Chinese culture.


The Festival of China, as the event is called, demonstrates increased cultural exchanges between China and the United States.


Bilateral cultural ties between the US and China have entered a new phase, with cultural exchanges expanding in terms of frequency, quantity, scope and channels, said Chinese Cultural Minister Sun Jiazheng in a speech at the National Press Club here yesterday to an audience of the American cultural elite.


In his speech entitled "Chinese Culture Today: Aspirations and Dreams," Sun emphasized China is promoting its cultural development based on a people-centered policy. Cultural development is aimed at contributing to a peaceful society.


Sun pointed out that China and the United States are separated by the Pacific Ocean and have distinctly different historical backgrounds, but both nations are multi-ethnic and both boast vast territories and hard working and intelligent people.


Sun's speech is part of the month-long Festival of China, which raised its curtain on the evening of October 1 with a spectacular ceremony at the Eisenhower Theatre inside the centre.


Throughout the 100-minute show, the audience that packed the 1,100-seat theatre often burst into thunderous applause.


A woman in the front row stood up to give a long ovation after Wei Baohua and Wu Zhengdan performed "Oriental Swan: Equilibrium in Ballet."


Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Centre, could hardly contain his excitement when "Pagoda of Bowls and the Charm of Piling-up" reached its climax.


"I was impressed by the shining costumes, the great variety of art forms and the stunning techniques," said Bill Couper with Bank of America. "It's really hard to say which is best, if I have to, I want to say the ballet on the shoulders and head and the Diabolos are the most interesting."


Mickey Rattray, a 14-year-old student from Marymount High School, said he also loved the "Equilibrium in Ballet." "I enjoyed the night very much and I really wonder how hard they must train," he said.


"It is really amazing, even more impressive than some of the shows I watched in Beijing when I toured there," said Elly Tierney, an 80-year-old retired secretary.


"It's a pity my daughter failed to buy a ticket tonight. She is also very interested in Chinese culture. We will try to come to other shows during the festival," Tierney said.


Kaiser expressed his appreciation for the Chinese and the Americans from both countries who put so much into the successful opening.


"Judging by the box-office, local people show a great interest in the festival and have given active responses. American people are enchanted by Asian countries especially China," said Alicia Adams, the Kennedy Centre's vice-president of International Programming and the festival's curator.


She revealed that tickets for "Raise the Red Lantern" by the National Ballet of China and the modern dance trilogy by the Beijing Modern Dance Company have sold out.


She said she looked forward to further co-operation with Chinese artists and companies.


"The festival is just a beginning, which opens a door to more sharing and exchanging. W will continue to engage with Chinese artists and art companies," she said.


(China Daily October 4, 2005)

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