Chinese Traditional Folk Nuo Rite Performance Caused a Sensation in Paris
Nuo Rite, an ancient rite with nearly three thousand years, since the Pre-Qin Period to nowadays, from royal court to folk yard, is explained difficultly and misunderstood by many people feeling it mysterious now. Though it once had been forbidden, farmers living in remote area maintain the traditional culture style which is on the verge of extinction for their sacrificial rite to prey for favorable weather and to exorcize evils at the beginning of New Year. With the policy of Reform and Opening up to the Outside and with the government pay much attention on the protection of Intangible Culture Heritage, Nuo Rite, Nuo Theatre and Nuo Dance in remote area are all reviving and getting flourished. China Nuo Opera Research Institute (CNORI) focuses on collection, research and carries forward the ancient Nuo culture. During the 20 years of work, CNORI and many Nuo experts not only endeavored to publish nearly 100 books about Nuo culture, but hold more than ten symposiums in different county and city maintaining primitive Nuo culture. These symposiums give researchers, both inside and outside, a good opportunity to get the first hand experience and investigation. At the same time, researchers coming from more than 20 countries bring the ancient culture to the world. We delight to know that many European and Asia scholars take Nuo as their research object and try their best to promote it to the world. More and more travelers and researchers come to Chinese county to see different style Nuo rite. Not only Japan and Korea, related closely with China in culture area, invited Nuo Dance group that belongs to local troupe to their country, but also many other culture or art ministry of European countries pay much attention on the primitive China Nuo culture. More and more anthropologists and travelers independently go to Chinese remote area for investigation and viewing.
Paris World Culture Center belonging to French Ministry of Culture holds Imagination Festival lasting for a month annually. The center have the 12th one this year. In this time, they show folk primitive rite, music and dance from different countries. China ancient Nuo rite has never been showed in France before which called advanced art shop window. Few French scholars and travelers came to China Hunan and Jiangxi province, watched some performances and collected some masks, and then they hold China Nuo Mask Individual Collection Exhibition in Paris 2007. These wood handcraft masks rose widely interest in Paris about China Nuo.
In order to appease the expectation of Nuo in Paris and exhibit mysterious China Nuo culture, Paris World Culture Center established friend relationship with China Nuo Opera Research Institute and dedicated prepared about one year for the China Nuo performance in Paris. Art director Arwad Esber and her assistant visited several places in south China to investigate Nuo dance in hot summer days 2007with temperature 40 degree. They decided to invite Guichi Dangliyao Nuo group of Anhui province leading by Wang Houbao (deputy director general of Guichi Culture Bureau) and Nanfeng Shiyou Nuo group of Jiangxi province leading by Zeng Zhigong (Nanfeng Nuo expert) to attend the 12th Imagination Festival. Dangliyao and Shiyou Nuo are all recorded on national Intangible Culture Heritage List. Wu Yunming, deputy president of CNORI, organized the two Nuo groups totally 25 people to attend the festival in Paris in early April.
The 12th Imagination Festival in Paris, during 12th, March to 18th , April 2008, exhibited primitive eco-folk dance and singing from nearly 20 countries, such as China, Chinese Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Mali, Italy, Tajikistan, Colombia, Morocco, Syria, Turkey, Algeria, Iraq, Spain and Finland. These performances had been arranged at different period of time and in different theatre according to their style and content. China Anhui and Jiangxi Nuo Dance were arranged at famous Zingaro theatre featured old-timey. Zingaro theatre is built by brown wood which well decorated to ancient China Nuo performance.
Agency France-Presse (AFP), Paris Broadcasting, Paris TV Station, Hong Kong Phoenix TV station, Sing Tao Daily and many other TV stations and websites were all report China Nuo groups during January to April. Paris Broadcasting and Paris TV Station had interviewed Wu Yunming, deputy president of CNORI, Zeng Zhigong, director of CNORI and some performers before showing. The festival organization committee had published the Introduction of Repertoire of 12th Festival which detailed introduced Guichi and Nanfeng Nuo performance. Program Posters were everywhere which highly raised the public passion of China Nuo. Many spectators arrived at theatre two hours advance in order to get good seat to watch Nuo dance. After performance, spectators would like stay long to see the stage property and costume.
These two Nuo dance performances lasting two hours were arranged at two parts because of their completely different style. At the first half, Shiyou Nuo group danced with gong and drum. Their posture and move are simple and old-timey but always jump. They performed 7 dances that are single dance: Kaishan (open the world door), Zhiqian (paper made in the form of a coin and burned as an offering to the dead) and Leigong (God of thunder), and double dance: Nuogong and Nuopo (father and mother of Nuo delight to have a baby when they are old), Zhongkui Over Drunk (Zhongkui drink with his students), Shuangbolang and Jidao (sacrifice to sword). These dances showed all the immortals heroic posture and their common life situation, which get much applause. At the second half, company with the blast of firecracker, Guichi Nuo group invite immortals and performed Dance of Umbrella which dressing up magnificently but with simple posture and move. Leader read loud auspicious words while others repeat. At the same time, a dancer rotates umbrella in different orientation. Then they performed Dachiniao (catch red bird), Wuxinghui (meeting of five immortals), Huaguansuo fight with Baosanniang (a stilt dance), Hefanji Good-bye (singing in an old tone named Qingyang) and Guangong Kill Evils in the end. Among them, Huaguansuo fight with Baosanniang (a stilt dance), has story and acrobatics, made hundreds of spectators keeping on applause and cheers.
During four days performing, the theatre had a full house, and some latter spectators had to stand on the table around. Spectators stay for a long time after showing, and performers need go back to the stage several times for curtain call. We were deeply aware the importance and obligation of promotion and protection of Chinese traditional culture. The culture and art from different countries will become more splendid when it belongs to the world. Pu Tong, counselor of Culture Department of China embassy in France, and Zhu Xiaoyun, suite of Culture Department of China embassy in France, were attend to the first performance and congratulated to all the performers. He said:“Few of Chinese traditional culture art could have chance to perform in big theatre like this in Paris. Spectators are come from high level, both France and other counties. Your performance was love by these spectators. It is shows that our Nuo dance is elegant, your program is classic art product. Your performance deepen the understanding of China and enhance the friendship between two counties. Your work is helpful. Thank you all and welcome to France again in culture exchange.” Officials of France Culture Ministry, experts and professors come from America, Japan, Colombia, Holland, Belgium, Finland, Germany and Russia and Chinese student abroad were attend and watch the performance. Du Xiao, a Chinese website master in Chinatown in Paris said athrill after watching: Wonderful! I will try my best to promote the ancient China culture on my website. Zhizi, a Japanese visiting scholar in France, watched twice continuously and said that she certainly will go to Chinese village to watch Nuo theatre. An old French professor said: it is extremely well that the eco-folk culture style of ancient oriental culture had been maintained unchanged. We deeply respect and admire that Chinese government pay much attention on the cherished culture heritage not only belongs to a nation but to the world. It is miraculous that you could display this ancient culture deriving from thousands of years ago. He asked whether the hero Guangong could kill evils in France. Madam Wu answered: the sky has no border, and the Guangong could go to every corner of the world. Now, he come to France and protects French people. The old French professor delighted said: wonderful! That is right. It was told that principals of art or culture department of Germany and Belgium had expressed their will of inviting the program to their stages.
In the grand festival, performances from Asian countries and regions took a big part of the total. Therefore, it is a way of saying that Asian wind blows the 12th Imagination Festival. We had heard that China is the best among them. Though we did not show much excitement on the face at that time, we deeply cheered in the heart. During the period of staying in France, we had been asked to select some of dances to perform for students. Wu Yuming and Zeng Zhigong answered questions raised by students. It let French young people had an opportunity to know about China ancient culture.