Yang Liping's Under Seige at Mostly Mozart
Stunning Dance at the David Koch Theater
By: Susan Hall - Aug 11, 2019
Yang Liping Contemporary Dance
Yang Liping, Chief Choreographer and Director
Tim Yip, Visual Director/Set and Costume Design
David Koch Theater
New York, New York
August 8-10, 2019
Yang Liping has created a dance drama in such startling colors and designs that the audience is swept into the the single Ancient Pipa melody of the same title. The tapping of swords, soldiers cries and horses whinnying and snorting are all suggested. The song portrays the end battle of the war for control of China in 205 B.C. The armies of the Chu and the Han face off in dance. Blood has never been so beautifully suggested, as a mass of red feathers fly through the air, some streaking the bodies of soldiers.
From the moment we enter the theater, our jaws drop. Strung across the top and middle of the theater’s stage are thousands of scissors, their blades open to represent Xiang Yu and Liu Bang, leaders of their respective troops. Light catches them at surprising angles moment to moment. They are said to ward off evil spirits, devils and demons. In the case of a battle, only one set of spirits will go down. Scissors may be harmless, but their impact is felt.
Dancing in long skirts that swirl about their bodies as they move in battle and raise swords, the dancers are impeccable and yet dramatically moving. Each of the characters is etched in gesture. Ge Junyi as Xiang Yu and Zhu Fengwai as Liu Bang are both fierce and startling. Han Xin in white is Gong Zhonghui and when he turns on this leader and becomes black is Ouyang Tian. Less betrayer than betrayed by lack of appreciation, Han Yin changes sides and helps the weaker leader to win.
In the background, and danced by a man as it is in traditional productions, Yu Ji, the devoted concubine, is beautifully and seductively danced by Hu Shenyuan.
Stage left from the moment we enter the theater, a man sifts through a pile of white paper like objects, from which he will from time to time draw the titles of each section of the piece. They are written in Chinese, but turn to English as the end.
Like Under Seige, Mozart’s Magic Flute has inspired brilliant stagings by Julie Taymor, Ingmar Bergman and William Kentridge. None rival the simple, jaw-dropping beauty of this production.