October 25, 2014

CHINA: Fire Breathing Dragon-Horse Faces Off Against Spider in Beijing. :)

The Wall Street Journal, China Real-Time
written by Olivia Geng
Tuesday October 21, 2014

Performance art often incorporates such special effects as fire, water and smoke to increase their dramatic effect.

But in Beijing, smoke effects don’t need to be prepared ahead of time. The city’s hazy pollution-filled sky provides it free of charge.

That was the case over the weekend at a three-day performance put on by the French company La Machine to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and China. The effect was ballet meets Transformers.

The show involved a 45-ton fire-breathing dragon-horse robot facing off against a 13-meter (43-foot) spider with a leg span of 20 meters (65 feet) in a performance loosely based on the ancient Chinese myth of Nuwa, a goddess who sacrificed herself to rescue mankind.

Given the emphasis on the spider and robot, though, some audience members felt the connection to the ancient myth was a bit hard to see.

“I felt there must be a scene [I would recognize from the legend] when I was watching it,” said Wu Ruijun, a college student in the audience. “But I really didn’t understand.”

Even hazier than the plot was the air outside. Beginning on Friday, Beijing was hit by another long bout of heavy pollution, so those who wanted to see the dragon-horse face off against the spider over the weekend—an outdoor show—had to endure the smog.

At one point during the show when the spider was spraying smoke, a woman in the audience shouted, “It’s not necessary for him to do it by himself. Beijing is smoky enough!”

François Delarozière, the show’s artistic director, told China Real Time that the air pollution didn’t faze him much.

“I’m OK with the fog, it makes the show more dramatic,” Mr. Delarozière said.

The performance was held outside Beijing Bird’s Nest Stadium, where the 2008 Olympics were held. During the performance, the two giant mechanical creatures walked back and forth along the 2.5-kilometer Landscape Avenue, with members of the audience following along.

The two robots interacted with the crowd, spraying water onto the audience and capturing their attention with spouts of fire.

Although the dragon-horse was ostensibly the show’s “good guy,” children in the audience seemed to prefer the spider. When it passed by, one child tried to touch the spider’s feet from behind a barrier. The spider obligingly raised a hand to greet the child.

The two creatures were controlled by machinists inside and outside the contraptions, with the dragon-horse containing more than 10 workers inside and the spider even more.

According to official Chinese media, a total of 100,000 people attended the show over the weekend. Though the crowd seemed enthralled by the show, they were also kept quite separate from the performance, with steel guardrails separating the performance from the audience.

After the show, Mr. Delarozière told CRT that security was too tight and called these measures unnecessary. Li Danyang, general manager of Gehua Cultural Development Group, which organized the show, agreed.

He told CRT that if people could get closer, they could enjoy it more. “The audience always followed the monsters. This kind of performance has never been done in Beijing before. The best way should be open to the audience and let them be part of it.”

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