Dazzling summer: Dance festival brings worldwide artists together in Xinjiang
Embracing diversity, harmony
Published: Jul 31, 2023 08:33 PM
Dancers perform at the 6th China Xinjiang International Dance Festival. Photo: Courtesy of the festival

Dancers perform at the 6th China Xinjiang International Dance Festival. Photo: Courtesy of the festival

Dance troupe from South Africa welcomed at the Urumqi Diwopu International Airport Photo: IC

Dance troupe from South Africa welcomed at the Urumqi Diwopu International Airport Photo: IC

The theaters in Urumqi, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are bustling with crowds of people who have come from all over the country to attend the 6th China Xinjiang International Dance Festival. 

Many expressed that it was difficult to secure tickets for popular shows like the Poetic Dance: The Journey of a Legendary Landscape Painting, A Dream of Red Mansions and Sleeping Beauty (from Belarus). For many of these festival-goers, who visited Xinjiang for the first time, every opportunity was taken to enjoy the performances and explore the beautiful sights with their families and friends during their summer vacation.

Amazed by Xinjiang

A 61-year-old Chinese audience surnamed Fang, who watched a Russian performance called Dawn, told the Global Times that she was moved to tears when all the performers and audience members joined in to sing the song Katyusha. She explained that this song was popular around China during her childhood and symbolized the cultural exchanges and friendship between China and Russia.

During the dance festival, three young women from North China's Hebei Province, Shanghai and Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province connected online and hoped to watch the festival's opening ceremony together in Urumqi. 

Duan Yi'nan, one of the three told the Global Times that they could only manage to get tickets for the opening ceremony as many shows were sold out within seconds. 

Despite the slight disappointment, their excitement at visiting Xinjiang for the first time was not dampened. "We've heard that 'Xinjiang is a great place,' and now that we're here, we truly understand the charm of this statement. After the opening ceremony, we plan to hire a travel agency and go together to enjoy the scenery of the Dushanzi-Kuqa Highway in Xinjiang," she said.

Like these tourists, many performing troupes were also visiting Xinjiang for the first time. Sofia Efremenko a 17-year-old actress from the Russian dance troupe told the Global Times that she was deeply touched by the warmth of the people in Xinjiang on her first visit. She found Xinjiang's dances to be powerful and admired the gorgeous costumes on show. She expressed her desire to learn Xinjiang-originated dance. 

After watching the original Xinjiang dance drama Zhang Qian, Efremenko said that although she didn't understand the language, the music and dance, especially the part where Zhang Qian had to separate from his lover to fulfill his mission, moved her deeply.

One dancer from the Kazakh dance troupe said, "Coming to Xinjiang feels like visiting relatives." Although it was her first visit to Xinjiang, she loved the environment and atmosphere there.

The Hong Kong Dance Company participated in the dance festival for the first time, and their performance excerpt from the work Convergence received enthusiastic applause at the opening ceremony. 

Yang Yuntao, Artistic Director of the Hong Kong Dance Company, told the Global Times that they could feel the audience's enthusiasm. "For us, it is an interesting experience to perform with dancers from different countries and regions. The piece we brought, Convergence, combines Chinese dance with martial arts. We hoped the audience would feel the wonderful fusion of the two."

Outstanding fashion show

The dance performances at the festival also brought many surprises. One highlight was the debut of street dance. A total of 48 out of more than 100 teams from across the country were selected for the festival. The event included 19 group performances and 32 duos, with dance styles encompassing freestyle street dance (hip-hop), popping, jazz, break dancing, contemporary choreography, and more.

Xia Rui, secretary-general of China Hip-Hop Union Committee, told the Global Times that Xinjiang is a place where people can sing and dance well. Through street dance, they hope to integrate more forms of contemporary dance into the national folk culture, using the art form to convey Chinese culture.

Outside the gallery corridor of the Xinjiang Art Museum, a spectacular performance has attracted countless spectators, with the venue surrounded by enthusiastic audience members. This dance festival has an additional fashion show. Spanning two days, this fashion show combines dynamic showcases with static exhibitions. The segment features works from eight outstanding fashion designers, showcasing the diverse cultures and customs found along the Belt and Road.

Sun Xiuqin, president of the Xinjiang Fashion Design Association, revealed to the Global Times that the main part of this fashion week is the incorporation of intangible cultural heritage elements unique to Xinjiang. She shared that she created two collections for the event, both centered around Etles, a local traditional craft. The first collection presents handmade Etles garments, representing the inheritance and innovation of intangible cultural heritage. The second collection features digital-printed Etles clothing, aiming to bring fashion closer to people's daily lives through the integration of sports and high technology. Sun hopes that the festival can present a more comprehensive and abundant image of Xinjiang to the world, highlighting not only its dances but also its beautiful intangible fashion heritage.

Alimujiang Adili, a young and promising local designer, expressed his honor at showcasing his works to the world. He plans to further his studies at the University of Arts London, and believes that going abroad will enable him to return with more ideas. He aspires to take Xinjiang fashion to the global stage, letting more people to understand Xinjiang's beauty.