A new Chinese entertainment spectacular, “Memory 5D+,” debuted in Southern California on May 26 and will soon embark on a world tour. The innovative show offered an opportunity to enjoy Chinese acrobats, classical and folk dancing, rare traditional musical instruments unfamiliar in the West, singing techniques, and other performance arts that reflect the area’s unique cultural mores.
“Memory 5D+” frames the various acts against a background of the creation of the universe and how the forces of darkness and light become one travelled through time and space, The “plot” includes the concepts of Yin (darkness) and Yang (light), the five elements, and other aspects of Chinese philosophy and culture that reflect several ethnic communities. The $4 million production featured more than 40 musicians, dancers and singers in a large-scale show that introduced the audience to the diversity of Chinese culture and the country’s ethnic diversity.
The inaugural performance of the “Memory 5D+” tour was held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The production company chose the site because of the huge Chinese population in the surrounding area, but the show sho
uld have a broader appeal for audiences interested in dance and music from other cultures.
“Memory 5D+” combines the collective “memory” of the culture and centuries of performing arts with an experience for all the senses (except taste). Yes, the production includes smell alongside sight and sound as various scents drift through the theater tied to the current act. For example, specific flower scents fill the air when the projection or dancers feature that blossom.
For Western audiences, the production is generally appealing. The music is written in traditional styles and performed by Chinese musicians who are known as masters of the unusual – by Western standards – instruments they play. Some of the singing styles may sound discordant to those raised on pop, rock or Mozart. The Khoomei (Tuvan throat singing), Tibetan folk songs, and the Mongolian Urlin Duu long tune are intriguing, but a little goes a long way.
A highlight is the Chinese acrobatics, which is one of the oldest traditional performing arts there. Twin brother acrobats Yang Haoxiang and Yang Haoyun portrayed the fierce and forceful Yin and Yang ch
aracters with martial arts moves, traditional acrobatics, and aerial tricks.
One of the featured dancers, Zhou Lijun appears in several acts with Yin and Yang as the flower goddess. She participated in the Chinese version of “So You Think You Can Dance.”
The most charming ethnic dancer was 11-year-old Kan Linna, a precocious whirling queen. She has mastered many dance forms. However, it is her twirling and turning without getting dizzy, for which she is best known. That talent amazed the Pasadena audience. (Kan Linna actually holds the Guinness World Record for twirling 126 times within 1 minute.)
Another performer that was a crowd favorite was Zhou Siyao with her Pipa (Chinese Lute). The stringed instrument is held in a vertical position, with the left hand pressing the strings and the five fingers of the right hand playing. Zhou Siyao played “Ambush On All Sides,” one of China’s top classic songs with feverish energy and flying fingers. She sat in front of a screen showing a dramatic image of a temple burning in an ancient war that added a dramatic element.
Other performers and musical masters played the Guzheng (zither), a plucked musical instrument with 21 strings; the Konghou (Chinese harp); Morin Khuur (Mongolian horsehead fiddle); Shamanic Drum (Tuvad), a membranophone played by several ethnic groups in Inner Mongolia and other provinces; and several other unusual instruments. There were solo and group numbers in the staging.
The new Chinese entertainment spectacular “Memory 5D+” that debuted on May 26 and May 27 would reportedly soon embark on a world tour. Look for details and a future visit.
By Dyanne Weiss