Mao Zedong and Yang Kaihui in the drama are played by the champion and runner-up of a major Chinese dancing competition. The two cooperated very well in this dance drama
“In my opinion, to learn a great man’s image in a dance drama, we should not be slaves to so-called ‘originality’, but the ‘correct creation’ of the image.” said Wu, the director.
（In China, there are countless text books, memoirs and works of art inspired by the stories of older generation revolutionaries. However, “When We Were Young” is a dance drama. This dance drama portrays the young Mao Zedong an enthusiastic and energetic young student. Just like many other young people, the hero had his young vitality, vision and delicate feelings.）
“When We Were Young” is a dance drama with the People’s Republic of China’s first Chairman, Mao Zedong as the hero. The story is set in China after the Opium War. In the early 1900’s, the country was torn apart by warlords, with the imminent national mission of saving the country, the whole nation was on a difficult, solemn and tragic road towards recovery. The drama vividly depicts the hard struggle Mao faced when he was a student. The dance drama has five acts, he appears as an energetic young man who has the great dream of national salvation; he also had tears, emotions, and hesitation, and became mature from the struggle. The drama also depicts a group of vigorous and enthusiastic young men. They were bold in fighting against the old world and pursuing new deas, seeking to change the country and society with their indomitable will.Directed by Wu Qingdong, the dance drama has been staged in the Erdos Theatre in Inner Mongolia and the Poly Theatre in Beijing and was highly acclaimed.
Expressing Youthful Vigor with the Language of Dance
On hearing the name of the drama,we think of vigorous teenagers full of aspirations. They had the same ideals and dreams; meanwhile, the heroic poem “Qin Yuan Chun - Changsha”written by Mao Zedong also comes to our mind. We have many dance dramas aiming to praise great men, but this drama was created by Wu Qingdong with careful consideration.Wu says, “When I was creating the dance drama, the TV drama with the same name was on CCTV; it helped me a lot in building the structure and characters.”this time, the dance drama can refer to a TV drama to correct people’s understanding about a great man.With the support of the TV drama,Wu then focused on interpreting the story by means of a dance drama.Dance dramas’ artistic expression highly deviates from people’s daily lives; so characters in a dance drama need to be carefully designed, such as the scenes of people’s actions and character relationships, and try to demonstrate the characters’ inner emotions with the language of dance .Mao’s attachment to his mother and his fear of his father were important emotions that he could not part with, at the same time, with the whole country on his mind, his fearlessness in regards to his family pressure and feudal ethics reflects the great man’s noble feelings on the one hand, Mao respected his teachers, loved his schoolmates and treasured their sincere friendship, on the other hand, he felt a deep sense of loss and grief when Junqing (a classmate) betrayed him and he struggled against warlords; his love and cherish of Yang Kaihui were his touching emotions, while the ongoing revolution and the opening of a new era showed his love for the country and the people.“When We were Young” successfully
creates Mao’s image in a dance drama, firstly because the hero is Mao as a young man, an energetic and vigorous student. In addition, the characters’ orientation in a dance drama is also very important, because the vibrant and passionate dance language is more suitable to show a young students’ emotions. Mao Runzhi (Mao Zedong's courtesy name), was then not a “great man” but a student, can bridge the gap between legendary characters and ordinary audiences.
Young Talents both on and off Stage
Although there is a distance between the highly-abstract dances and real life, it still can be an art form that both old and young people can accept. Dances,whether a solo dance of the main character, or a group dance showing specific plot or atmosphere, under the overall design of director Wu, really have realistic and wonderful effects.The drama has integrated many dance styles; and different dances express different feelings and atmosphere, such as the heroic group dance in the prelude, or the gentle double dance of Mao and Yang Kaihui, and the beautiful women group dance showing the pretty scene of Nanhu Lake in Jiaxing, or the astounding double dance of Mao and a warlord. Mao Zedong in the drama is played by Zhang Aoyue and Yang Kaihui is played by Tang Shiyi, the two were the champions
and runner-up of a Chinese dancing competition program called “So You Think You Can Dance” last year. The two cooperated very well in this dance drama and interpreted a touching love story between Mao Zedong and Yang Kaihui. The success of a dance drama does not rely only on excellent leading actors; the cooperation of the whole team is very important. There are lot of talented artists in the China Opera and Dance Theatre,and they are continuously recruiting fresh members. The actors of this dance drama practiced 8 hours everyday; these young people have dreams and sense of responsibility, just like the young men they played in the drama.
A Great Man’sImage Discovered
The drama demonstrated Mao Zedong’s enthusiastic and full flourishing image when he was young. Just like many other young people, the hero had his young vitality, vision and delicate feelings.In the dance drama, the plots, dances, as well as the heroes’ youthful and romantic revolutionary feelings are very impressive because it is realistic and close to our lives. We can say that“When We Were Young” is inspiring and exciting, not only because Mao Runzhi’s aspirations and perseverant character, but also because of the video effects and emotional power of this dance drama. Although dance dramas highly deviate from our daily lives, we still can find effective expressions through character activities, plots, or dramatic conflicts. In this process, a great man’s image can be discovered from ordinary things, and ordinary people can be closer to the“great men”.