A long-winded titled, but undeniably talented, the Beijing Students Golden Sail Art Troupe brought a splash of colour to a typically grey Edinburgh morning. Precociously skilled in traditional Chinese folk dance and music; the show was a spare 40 minutes, yet stuffed with dazzling choreography and composition, not to mention absolutely stunning costumes.
‘China Red’ opened with an 11 strong band playing what looked like banjos, a xylophone, and a variety of stringed instruments in a performance of military precision named ‘Blooming Flowers’. The dedication and physical control was typically Chinese, qualities we have come to expect from the global giant since the opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Most of the music was consciously nostalgic, harking back to a folk tradition centuries old and a reminder of China’s rich history.
Another highlight of the show was the more modern-flavoured ‘Popcorn Dance’, performed by a troupe of enthusiastic kids in ruffled, candy-coloured costumes imitating popcorn kernels popping with the tick-tacks of a tap shoe. This was a crowd pleaser, the many parents in the audience (who I think outnumbered casual spectators) whipping out cameras to capture the moment.
The group numbers were breathtaking ensemble achievements with the dancers holding orange fans and moving in tandem to imitate flickering flames, or mimic the fluttering of birds’ wings. A solo dancer performed a routine inspired by ‘peacocks flying high in the sky’, and though it was beautifully choreographed and elegant, it didn’t hold quite the same level of energy as the other acts.
China Red also looked West for inspiration. A Lady Gaga soundtrack provided a jarring contrast to a group dance performed in traditional Chinese costumes, and one pompom-twirling cheerleader act came straight out of an American high school movie. While these numbers are fun, and suggest a youthful desire to mix things up, I found the dancing and music infinitely more moving when the students stuck to their own rich cultural roots.