White-haired girl as young as ever

By Pauline D.Loh ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-05-15 10:37:46

This year, Xi'er will be 50 years old. The old team that helped deliver her in 1964 is grayer than she is, and some of them can only applaud her continuing success onstage from the other side now.

There are black frames around many of the names that appear in the credits on the program.

The White-Haired Girl is a model drama, one of eight approved and allowed to be performed during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76). But it had actually been created before the full force of that counter-tradition movement gathered strength in 1967 and it was a thing of beauty, then, as it still is now.

A new cast of ballet dancers brought a fresh production to stage recently at Shanghai's beautiful Lyric Theater. It was the Shanghai Ballet's 30th anniversary, and they chose to pay tribute with this classic homegrown ballet about evil landlords, righteous rural rebels, sacrifice and final vindication.

There were no surprises.

Most of the audience above 50 knew every twist and turn of the plot. They knew the melodies, the characters and their individual fates. They could sing along, and they clapped at all the right moments without skipping a beat.

If they brought their children or grandchildren along, they explained the plot in low voices.

The spouse sat beside me, misty-eyed, almost inaudibly humming the familiar riffs, and suppressing his often cynical mutterings about how the original story was changed to suit the revolutionary purpose.

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