If say An Lee, John Woo, Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Zhang Ziyi have made a mark for China in Hollywood, the large and comprehensive Festival of China to take place at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in October will introduce the American public to the cultural diversity that stems from China's 5,000 years of history and 1.3 billion people.
Much more than a sampling of dim sum, the Kennedy Center, in co-operation with China's Ministry of Culture, will present a month-long, multi-course banquet offering cultural delicacies.
Some 900 of China's best and brightest musicians, dancers, puppeteers, actors, directors, choreographers and acrobats will showcase the energy and expression of contemporary Chinese culture in the United States capital with unprecedented performances and exhibitions.
"The festival will be the single largest celebration of Chinese performing arts in American history," says Michael M. Kaiser, president of Kennedy Center. "We feel that the eyes of the American nation will focus on Washington DC this fall, as Americans from across the country experience the impressive diversity of the history and culture of China."
Kaiser had planned a festival to highlight the performing arts of China when he came on board about four and a half years ago.
And after three years of hard work, Alicia Adams, Kennedy Center's vice-president of International Programming and the festival's curator has worked out a combination of the wonderful traditional art and the current explosion of new talent that pervades the Chinese artistic landscape.
"While some Washingtonians might still remember Nixon's historic 1972 visit to China, this country of 1.3 billion people has moved into the 21st century at a breathtaking pace, and contemporary China teems with enormous energy as it catapults toward the 2008 Beijing Olympics," says Adams.
On the programming of this festival, Adams says, "It is always a delicate balance to try to present that which is true to the culture and at the same time have it resonate and engage an American audience. So I chose a mix of contemporary and traditional, classical and modern, to present the breath of culture in China and to engage many audiences for the performances."
"I hope that the audience will come away with a sense of the multiplicity of cultures that exist in China," adds Adams who is keen on cultivating in-depth appreciation of Chinese culture amongst the American public and designed all the programmes to open eyes, ears and minds.
"This is more than a performing arts festival. We offer free weekend events for the entire family, from acrobatics to kit-flying activities, a drumming extravaganza, film series, the re-creation of Beijing market fairs at the Kennedy Center, and a photographic display of Beijing. And you can see the Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty some 2,000 years ago exhibited in the States Gallery," she says.
The Festival of China will officially begin on October 1, on the occasion of the Chinese National Day, with a captivating opening night performance, which also marks the beginning of "Beijing Cultural Week" an exciting series of events celebrating the ancient and thriving metropolis that is China's capital city.
Some of Beijing's leading performance ensembles in a dazzling variety of Chinese folk music, dance, Peking Opera, costumes, acrobatics, drumming and drama will perform on the opening night.
The highlights of the "Beijing Cultural Week" also include Charming Beijing: Photographs of the Chinese Capital; a multimedia display of Beijing's preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games; open-air marketplace of old Beijing; and kite making and flying along the Potomac River.
During the festival, performers in dance, music, traditional opera and contemporary theatre from Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Taipei, along with Chinese artists based in the United States, will present their craft.
(China Daily September 28, 2005)