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2017’s Huayi – Chinese Festival of the Arts has something for everyone, whatever your zodiac sign.
Those born in the Year of the Rat are known to be charming, quick-witted and outgoing. In other words, they are the life of the party, and Wuxia – Theme Songs from Martial Arts Movies and Serials is the perfect rousing feel-good concert for these sociable creatures. Those who can remember the music from wuxia classics like The Condor Trilogy and One-Armed Swordsman will revel in this trip down memory lane, which will feature Hong Kong crooner Johnny Yip. Young Rats can lean on their highly adaptable nature—another signature trait for this zodiac sign—and make use of this opportunity to bond with their elders by enjoying these evergreen tunes together. After all, with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra’s feisty maestro Tsung Yeh conducting, the evening is sure to be a lively affair for audience members of all ages.
Those born in the Year of the Ox are diligent, patient and steadfast. They also tend to have ruminative personalities—a good match for Taiwanese playwright and director Stan Lai’s acclaimed play Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The play is known for its crowdpleasing mash-up of comedic and sentimental genres, but it’s the tragic love story at its core—featuring star-crossed lovers separated by the tides of history—that gives the play its beating heart and long-lingering pathos. Is the lovers’ estrangement a metaphor for cross-strait ties? Is the clash between the play’s earthy opera troupe and high-faluting drama group a playful take on competing claims on the Chinese identity? The reflective Ox will have a field day chewing over the production’s multi-layered themes.
Those born in the Year of the Tiger are straightforward, vigorous types who love to compete and relish the exploration of new worlds. These independent and confident personalities will thrill to the musically adventurous tunes in Migration – A World Music Concert. This is a showcase for HAYA, a 10-year-old six-piece band founded by horsehead fiddle musician Quansheng and fronted by charismatic vocalist Daiqing Tana. Their music fuses Mongolia’s rich musical heritage (think throat singing and shaman drums) with modern panache, presenting world music at its most exploratory. HAYA’s genre-crossing innovation has won the band the roar of popular acclaim, including Golden Melody Awards, the Chinese Music Media Awards, and a performance on Hunan TV’s popular I Am A Singer.
in::music – PiA: Funny Way of My Life and other singer-songwriters
Those born in the Year of the Rabbit are friendly, gentle, and thoughtful. These mellow fellows will enjoy the musical stylings of the singer-songwriters featured in the in::music series. Taiwan’s bubbly PiA and plaintive Eli Hsieh, plus Singapore’s very own Kelly Poon, will each bring their own unique spin to indie Chinese pop songs about the joys and melancholies of modern life.
For Rabbits eager to check out newer voices, just hop to the free 4 Feb performances at We Are Singer-songwriters! featuring Jane Lai, Boon Hui Lu, Cheng Jin An, Ng Meiting, Mandy Ke and Jeff Ng at the Esplanade Concourse, as well as NEKO Highway, Quis and V’s at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre. You can also catch One Million Star winner Huang Jinglun at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre on 9 Feb.
Those born in the Year of the Dragon have rich imaginations and are constantly innovating. These boundary-pushers will feel right at home with China Music House, an initiative launched in 2014 by music producer Chen Weilun and Beijing-based indie record company 13 Month. Their goal—to set creative sparks flying by bringing Eastern and Western music together. This concert will feature the melding of two genres known for their melting-pot melodies. From the West comes jazz, that uniquely American art form born from the fusion of African and European traditions. From the East comes pingtan, a 400-year-old form of musical storytelling that found its full flowering in 19th-century Shanghai, when the port city began welcoming diverse new cultures. Dragon dreamers may not be at all surprised by the way these two distinct schools of music come together in unique harmonies, featuring acclaimed pingtan artists Gao Bowen and Lu Jinhua.
Those born in the Year of the Snake are pliable, discreet and agile, and their cool exteriors belie their fervent hearts. If you think these sound like the perfect traits for a versatile actor, we’re sure Yeo Yann Yann wouldn’t disagree. She was in fact born in the Year of the Snake, and those who share this zodiac sign can help celebrate her milestone 40th birthday in 2017 by watching how she commands the stage in this collaboration with playwright Haresh Sharma and director Alvin Tan of The Necessary Stage. Actor, Forty is a one-woman show that explores the blurred lines between business and pleasure, expectations and aspirations, and art and life. Yeo is best known for winning a Golden Horse Award for her supporting role in Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo, but the stage was her first arena and one in which her sinuous presence exerts a magnetic pull.
Those born in the Year of the Horse are energetic, open-hearted and prefer to be in the company of friends. For these positive-thinkers, a performance by Cloud Gate 2 may just be perfect for a group hangout. Founded in 1999, this is the sister company to Taiwan’s acclaimed Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, and it’s dedicated to showcasing talented young dancers and choreographers. Cloud Gate 2’s Huayi triple-bill will embody its dynamism to full effect—artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung will present two works that respectively explore segregation and shifting identities, while choreographer Huang Yi draws from the movements of fish for his playful piece. These vibrant performances may just be infectious enough to send Horses into a spirited canter.
Artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung talks to Huayi producer Delvin Lee about chiildhood dreams and how dance touches people in ways unlike other art forms. Read the interview
Hold On, Chopsticks! and craft workshops
Those born in the Year of the Goat value harmony, but beneath their mild-mannered façade lies a strong determination and a clear-eyed sense of logic. If you have a young Goat (aged 6 to 9) in your life, the little one may enjoy a hands-on parent-child craft workshop like FANtastic Fun!, where he or she can learn how to make a paper fan from scratch. Teenaged Goats (aged 16 and above) can flock to Hold On, Chopsticks!, where they’ll learn how to make ingenious objects using chopsticks.
A Midsummmer Night’s Dream and rock music
Those born in the Year of the Monkey are cheerful, charismatic, inventive and sometimes relish a little bit of playful trouble-making. They would have a ball in the enchanted forest of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where the foibles and farces of romance unfold with the help of puckish sprites. Add mercurial Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong to the mix as a jealous fairy king, and it’s sure to be a colourful evening that any Monkey would revel in.
It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to call Monkeys the aspiring rockstars of the Chinese zodiac, and there are other opportunities for high-decibel monkeying around this year. On 3 Feb, the very first Huayi Livehouse! will see Singapore singer Alfred Sim performing favourite Mandarin pop hits, classic Cantonese rock anthems and some of his original hit songs with a four-piece band at the Esplanade Annexe Studio. The party starts late at 10.45pm, and those with tickets for Huayi shows will enjoy savings.
Those born in the Year of the Rooster are known to be courageous, forward-thinking and, if the situation calls for it, organised problem-solvers. Their cerebral qualities make them a good audience for more avant-garde works of art, like this play that was created to challenge established perceptions of what theatre could be. Written by Austrian playwright Peter Handke in 1966, Offending the Audience bills itself as “antitheatre”—it has no plot, no characters, no set, and fundamentally offers no illusions. What this production does have is a creative team that has shaped and energised contemporary Mandarin theatre in Singapore—Nelson Chia, Oliver Chong, Li Xie, Ang Gey Pin, Darren Ng and Lim Woan Wen. The questions these practitioners want to provoke may spur the dawning of a new era of experimentation, and that would certainly be something to crow about.
Child’s Play and puppetry
Those born in the Year of the Dog have a strong sense of justice and loyalty. So who better to safeguard Chinese New Year traditions? Enrol your young pups (aged 7 to 10) in the experiential programme Child’s Play, where they’ll learn all about the legend of Nian and join forces to chase this ferocious mythical creature away.
Traditional puppetry will also feature in Huayi. Taiwan’s award-winning The Happy Puppetry Company is dedicated to preserving this art form, and its skillful puppeteers perform at the Esplanade Waterfront Canopy from 8 to 12 Feb. Meanwhile, Singapore’s very own Paper Monkey Theatre will introduce traditional hand puppetry to about 250 children from various voluntary welfare organisations through hands-on workshops. Those who share the Dog zodiac sign may feel an affinity for how these practitioners stay true to their well-honed craft.
Lion dance and free craft workshops
Those born in the Year of the Pig are easygoing, sincere and magnanimous, which is why they might feel most at home when they’re enjoying performances that everyone will delight in. Welcome the Year of the Fire Rooster on 3 Feb with a spectacular lion dance performance by the Singapore Yiwei Athletic Association, or take part in craft workshops where you can make your very own lucky rooster charms and festive headgear. Remember, these free events are open to all, and the more the merrier—those in the crowd who share the Pig zodiac sign will definitely think so, and your presence will help make their Chinese New Year very happy indeed.