Beijing Opera comes to the heart of Fairfax and beyond

posted Dec 12, 2014, 11:07 AM by Louisa H   [ updated Dec 31, 2014, 12:34 PM ]
by Cynthia Yung

Watching an authentic Beijing Opera outside China is a seldom opportunity. It is an art that most people know by name, but have never seen before. Beijing Opera is more than just music and singing; it also combines drama, dancing, martial arts and acrobatics, which makes it one of the most multifaceted theatrical forms in the world. In 2010 Beijing Opera was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO.

DC Beauty of Beijing Opera (DCBBO), a non-profit organization located in Greater Washington DC area, aims at promoting Beijing Opera in the United States, particularly to non-Chinese Americans. Five founding members of DCBBO are Louisa Huang, Sarah Xie, Mei Wang, Sharon Che, and Cynthia Yung. They sincerely believe that the beauty and essence of Beijing Opera should be introduced to those who have never been exposed to this traditional Chinese performing art that is more than three-hundred-year-old. The members are also enthusiastic in helping American-born Chinese high school students who do not have the opportunities at home and school to know Beijing Opera. For this reason, DCBBO recently came to George Mason University, Fairfax Campus, and North Virginia Experimental Chinese School at Chantilly High School for a workshop and demonstration performance.

You might not expect so many people would be interested in listening to and watching the kind of performing art that is so foreign to them. The way of singing and miming is totally different from that of Western opera; the acting style is suggestive and symbolic, and even a single step is so hard to imitate! But they listened attentively to the introduction and worked so hard to act like a young lady or an old gentleman in ancient China. They giggled and laughed, but no one gave up until the 45-minute learning section was over. They even demonstrated what they promptly learned in front of the audience! The first taste of Beijing Opera might not mean much understanding of this unique oriental performing art, but the seeds sowed today in these young hearts might be able to germinate in future when its time comes!

The workshop was truly a wonderful and much-needed Beijing Opera lesson and exotic entertainment for people interested in the mysterious oriental culture.  The Confucius Institute at Mason, School of Theater, College of Visual and Performing Arts, George Mason University, and the Chinese school teachers and students gave the same feedback about this unique workshop. That is the feedback the DCBBO has often received from several similarly successful events since its establishment. In less than two years, the organization has reached out to various groups and venues for Beijing Opera promotion: a remarkable performance in Harris Theatre of George Mason University in October 2013, a striking performance at Mary Washington University in Virginia on November 1, 2013, a widely-praised performance at Howard University in District of Columbia on May 24, 2014, and several well-prepared-and-delivered workshops in Chinese schools in Northern Virginia and Maryland.