• Red curtains open to reveal Chinese writing introducing the name of the work, the performer, and the performance institution. A solo female dancer in a flowing light-colored jacket and pants stands in a lavender spotlight backing the viewer, holding a closed fan in her hand. She circles the fan and rises and falls to the plucking of a Chinese zither. She executes a series of deft circular movements with the fan, takes several steps, and curves her arms and upper body. She lifts her left into a vertical extension and circles her foot and head in unison. Then, she reorients into a forward position and continues in rippling and flowing movements that pause at the end of each phrase of music. The fan remains closed, and at times she holds it vertically like a calligraphy brush and moves it parallel to the floor, as if writing. Eventually, after a series of faster movements, including a fall back on the floor with legs kicking upward, the dancer opens the fan, which is made of pastel rainbow-colored silk. Then, she closes it again. Technically demanding turns, balances, and other feats are woven into the smooth and slowing movement. The dance gradually speeds up toward the end, with more movements executed with the fan open, the colors floating through the air encircling the dancer’s body. The music likewise becomes more complex and fast, turning from isolated plucking to a layered strumming, forming a climax of movement, colors, and sounds that calms again only at the very end.

Wang Yabin performing Fan as a Brush (Shanwu danqing)

From Corporeal Politics: Dancing East Asia by Katherine Mezur and Emily Wilcox, Editors

  • Asian Studies
  • Theater and Performance
  • Dance
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