Opening Up A NEW Window On an Ancient Endangered Art

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Puffin Foundation West, Ltd (PFW) Grant 2017

On the

Slowing Down the Decline of Beijing Opera Project

Organization: DC Beauty of Beijing Opera Ltd (DCBBO)


The project was designed to enhance the public awareness of the endangered Beijing Opera, a typical form of Chinese theater and a unique window to ancient China, including its culture and value, through educational oriented performances and workshops in 2017. Sandy Spring Museum has never had an artistic event related Chinese ethnicity prior the presentation provided by DCBBO on June 16, 2017. The two-hour Beijing Opera workshop was successfully done for residents in the Sandy Spring and Onley communities of the Montgomery County, Maryland. It had not only well served the goal of Sandy Spring Museum but also the goal of DCBBO for reaching out. Over 1500 people were

This workshop was kicked off with an oral presentation accompanied with bilingual text and pictures through PowerPoint projection, introducing the history of Chinese Opera, the characteristics of Chinese Opera and Chinese Philosophy. Then the lecture was illustrated through four twenty minutes long Chinese Opera performances. The demonstration of some specific stage movements triggered the interaction between performers and audience. To most audience this was their first experience in exposure to Chinese performing arts. Audience was so much attracted to the presentation and performances that many of them stayed after the workshop for more inquiries. One participant commented: “I learnt more about Beijing Opera in the last two hours than in the past fifty years!”

2) The Multicultural Night organized by the World Language Department of Parkland Magnet Middle School held on March 23, 2017 was very impressive to around 500 attendees, including students, parents, and guardians, from the Aspen Hill area of Montgomery County, Maryland. DCBBO members presented three pieces of Beijing Opera classics to this group of non-Chinese speaking audience who watched live performance of Beijing Opera for the very first time. DCBBO’s reach-out added a unique taste to the program, and the performance was extremely well-received.

At the Sandy Spring Museum workshop, water sleeve (i.e. a one-meter long silk strip attached to the sleeves of Beijing Opera costume) was introduced to the audience as one of the most representative features of Beijing opera. The water sleeve on stage is a tool for performers to illustrate their feelings, their thoughts through manipulation of sleeves. Performers also use water sleeves to create various dances. The costume was designed in line with the tradition in ancient China, when women were not supposed to show their feet and hands to others except their mothers and sisters. As a result, ancient women wore long skirt that would cover their shoes and long sleeves that would cover their hands. After the presenters explained these facts to the audience, a group of female audience stayed after the show to continue with the discussion on this topic. One of them said she had read that in French culture, women were also not supposed to show their feet to others in the old time. She was impressed how much similarities there were across all cultures.