Feature: Chinese acrobatics impress Aussie audience with show inspired by 1930s Shanghai

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-14 18:28:37|Editor: Yamei
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By Duncan Murray

SYDNEY, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Combining cabaret, ancient Chinese acrobatics and a jazz band, new international production Shanghai Mimi is an exciting display of skill, artistry and good times, with the potential to unite audiences from China, Australia and beyond.

The show opened in Sydney on Jan. 12 as a main feature of the city's premier artistic festival.

For the production, Australian director Moira Finucane has teamed up with the Qinghai Acrobatic Troupe from western China to create a cross-border event inspired by the nightclubs and music of Shanghai in the 1930s.

Finucane described working with the acrobats, who have been honing their skills together for the past 15 years, as the equivalent of a painter walking into a studio that already has the very best paints in the world and the very best view to paint.

Wei Youjuan, leader of the fourth generation of Qinghai Troupe, told Xinhua that the experience has been entirely new and positive for the group as well, bringing a sensualness and cohesion which is entirely new for their performance.

In search of a cast, Finucane travelled to the group's base on the Tibetan plateau, and quickly realized how special the they were, and the possibilities which their broad skill base presented, covering plate spinning, jar juggling, aerial silks, balancing acts and more.

No stranger to China, Finucane has a history of performance in the country and an interest in the culture which she said could date back to when her grandfather visited the country in the 1970s.

"He really fell in love with China and I think it rubbed off on me," Finucane said.

"He came back with chopsticks, some really intriguing sounding music and a great love of black bean fish which he used to take me to restaurants and feed me when I was a little kid," Finucane said.

As she grew older, she developed a love for Chinese Opera. In 2014, renowned Chinese director Meng Jinghui cast her as the lead role in Bertolt Brecht's "The Good Person of Szechuan," which she performed at the National Theater of China.

"That's when I really fell in love with China. When I was there in Beijing, working with one of China's most famous theater directors, meeting really fascinating artists and talking to audiences," she said.

After adding a number of other Chinese based productions to her credits, including directing a Chinese language drama for the Shanghai International Theater Festival, Finucane was inspired when she heard recovered recordings of 1930's Shanghai jazz, known as Shidaiqu, to return to the burlesque and cabaret roots for which she became renowned.

From that spark of inspiration, Shanghai Mimi sprang, growing to resemble the "melting pot" of the city on which it is based.

"There's people following their dreams to Shanghai from everywhere," Finucane said.

"So when I created Shanghai Mimi, I wanted that melting pot of human dreams," Finucane said.

With dancers, acrobats, aerialists and singers from across China, Australia, Cameroon and France, the show succeeds in reflecting that diversity, which Wei said it has only worked in the show's favor.

"There's been no barrier really," Wei said.

"Even though they don't speak the same language, everyone's heart is in the same place," Wei said.