‘A Tea Spell’: a mystical dance through Chinese tea culture

CCTV.com
Stanley Lee
07-13-2014

A fascinating dance at the National Center for the Performing Arts, ‘A Tea Spell’ is a splendid portrayal of Chinese culture during the Tang dynasty.

A fascinating dance at the National Center for the Performing Arts, ‘A Tea Spell’  is a splendid portrayal of Chinese culture during the Tang dynasty.

A fascinating dance at the National Center for the Performing Arts, ‘A Tea Spell’ is a splendid portrayal of Chinese culture during the Tang dynasty. It centers on a woman’s life story told through tea culture and Buddhist philosophy.

Before the show starts, audiences are surprised by a dancer among their ranks, who even makes close contact with some of the them. She is said to symbolize purity.

“I have high standards for the dancers I work with; not only do they have to be very skilled, but their performances should come from their souls, not just their limbs. So every dancer will have to explore their hearts to find their unique skills.” said Zhao Liang, Director, “A Tea Spell”.

The dance centers on the subtle shifts in a woman’s heart during the Tang dynasty. There is not a single word throughout the show, yet the audience is captured by the movements of the dancers clad in exquisite Tang attire.

The Buddhist concept of zen and tea culture are merged together, symbolizing the integration of Buddhism into ancient Chinese culture as it is known today.

“I’m a tea culture instructor myself, so I am fascinated with this show. The tea pots used in the show are exact replicas of those found in the Famen temple in Xi’an, dating back to the Tang dynasty. It is said to have been used by the emperor. So this is a must see for me.”

The director weaves the two strands seamlessly together, one of love and one of zen.

In her life’s story, the woman encounters very different people that shape her life. A wood cutter, scholar and monk cross paths with her and guide the plot forward. The three people symbolize flesh, spirit and soul. There are only seven dancers in the show, but the audience is kept entranced by the fluid shifts in lighting, music and dazzling costumes.

There have been many attempts to portray Chinese culture through dance in the past, and certainly this show is among the most successful. The Chinese spirit is embodied in the tea utensils and the movements of the performers. The director plans to stage the show again in Europe later this year.

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