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Friday, Sept. 14, 2007

HANDS ACROSS ASIA

Concubines unite


In China, she is regarded as one of the four great beauties of world history; in Japan she is one of three similar icons — along with Cleopatra and the Heian Period poet Komachi Ono-no. Her name was Yang Guifei (719-756), and she was the favorite concubine of the emperor Xuanzong, revered not only for her beauty and intelligence but also her exceptional talent for dancing.

Yokihi (Yang Guifei)
"Yokihi (Yang Guifei)" opens Sept. 14. © KATSU NAGAISHI

Now, in a collaboration between Shanghai City Dance Company and the Tokyo-based Bunkamura Company, this legendary woman (played by Cheng Fangyuan) shares the spotlight in the colorful dance drama "Yokihi" with the fictional character of Sha Ami (Song Jie), a young half-Chinese niece of the Japanese ambassador to the ancient capital of Changan. There, even as Yang and her pupil Sha each night give the emperor a sparkling performance, conspirators are plotting to overthrow him. Finally, the plotters capture Xuanzong and Yang, and Sha makes a daring plan to free them.

"Yokihi" (titled "Yang Guifei" in Chinese) is an original work by this Sino-Japanese team, primarily written, directed, choreographed and acted by Chinese, and with sets, costumes and original music composed and performed by their Japanese colleagues. After this weekend's world premiere, with four performances at Tokyo's Orchard Hall, the spectacular will tour in China before being staged at an international exposition there in 2010.

Previously, Bunkamura worked with Shanghai City Dance Company on the original 2005 production "Haou Bekki (Ba-wang-bie-ji)" and the following year's "Acrobatic Swan Lake." Judging by the huge acclaim they garnered for the latter, which returned to packed houses last month in Tokyo, this latest combination of artistry and athleticism promises to be just about the hottest ticket in town for any fan of all-round entertainment — especially for the competitive dances before the emperor between these two great beauties both past and present.

"Yokihi (Yang Guifei)" runs Sept. 14-16 at Tokyo's Bunkamura Orchard Hall, an 8-minute walk from JR Shibuya Station. For more details, call Bunkamura at (03) 3477-3244 or visit www.bunkamura.co.jp.



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