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September 24, 1999 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-09-24

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 24, 1999 - 11

Simple beauty of 'Xiu Xiu

ends in long, basic bore

By Joua Pederson
Daily Arts Writer

The 1970s brought a perplexing
social'campaign to mainland China. In
an attempt to prove the worth of
Communism in an increasingly capital-
isrld, the Chinese government
i tented a program called the
ultral Youth Revolution. Through this
ocial campaign, nearly eight million
Edficated Youths, as they were called,
er& sent down" from the large cities
to the Chinese
hinterlands to act
as a sort of cultur-
al exchange.
AW. Xi: The In theory, these
Se WDown Girl youths would
** bring their edu-
s cation to the
At Michigan Theater peasantry, later
returning to their
home cities with
newfound abili-
ties in trade, fac-
tory work, crafts-
manship and var-
ious other spe-
ialized skills.
,&t, as time passed, the program
low1y proved a failure, and as the
at 'U'
a en ei enn
& Performing Arts Editor
Dance students gained the oppor-
tunity to work with choreographer
Ddhald McKayle this week, as they
prepare to unveil his "Rainbow.
Although the universities around
the country have performed the
"Rainbow" etude,. McKayle added
the suite as a new element for the
*ce school show "Worldwide
Rhythms," which will premiere in
February at the Power Center. The
show also features the choreography
of three faculty members, Sandra
Deyong-Torjano, Evelyn Belez-
Aguayo and Robin Wilson.
McKayle's piece started out as a
way for dance students to practice a
protessional work the same way the-
' and music students do. A dance
i(essor at the University of
California at Irvine, McKayle saw
that many students were lacking this
type of experience. "It's a chance for
thert to sink their teeth into some-
thins that's very established," he
said. "It's a work that has a very long
and ongoing history."
Based on "Rainbow 'Round My
Shc4lder," McKayle's famous piece
exa ining the emotional struggle of
hain gang, "Rainbow Suite"
rks selected portions of the
dane for a different group of
dancers. The original work featured
sevqn men and one woman, while
the dance school version will star 14
dancers, two men and 12 women.
Its spite of the changes, the dance
retains its potent theme. "The idea of
beinlg imprisoned in one way or
another and persevering to stay alive
*quite universal," McKayle said.
"I'm sure this version will commu-

nicate that in the same visceral way."
McKayle performed "Rainbow
'Round My Shoulder" with dancers
from Moscow to Buenos Aires.
Since he started dancing profession-
ally in 1948, he's worked on
Broadway as well as with prominent
companies, including Martha
Graham, Merce Cunningham and
1 na Sokolow. Most recently, he
'oreographed the new work,
"Danger Run," which will premiere
in December, for the Alvin Ailey
American Dance Theatre.
Of course, working with students
provides a different atmosphere than
choreographing for a professional
company."When you work with a
major company, you are working
with professional dancers ... who
do anything you ask them,"
cKayle said. "With students, you
are developing people. It's a very
different process that has it's own

bureaucracy disintegrated, it became
nearly impossible for the Educated
Youths to obtain official papers guaran-
teeing their return home. Six month
tenures in the beautiful Chinese coun-
tryside turned into agonizing years in
the bush. The youths became desperate,
searching wildly for any way to return
to their homes, their families, their
loves. Many of them ended up resorting
to bribery, prostitution and even self-
mutilation in the hopes of acquiring the
elusive documentation that would take
them away.
"Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl" is the
story of one Educated Youth and her
thwarted attempts at return. Wen Xiu
(Lu Lu), known among her friends as
Xiu Xiu, is an early recruit of the
Cultural Youth Revolution.
She leaves a happy home and a lov-
ing family in the city of Chengdu, ulti-
mately landing on the plains of central
China with the task of learning horse
herding from a Tibetan nomad named
Lao Jin (Lopsang). Xiu Xiu sees Lao
Jin as possessing a naive provincialism,
and to Lao Jin, Xiu Xiu can only repre-
sent a brazen intrusion into his pastoral
existence. Nevertheless, a strange
almost filial friendship forms between

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views of the Chinese landscape are
symbolic in their beauty.
Chen chose her vehicle well, for the
story of Xiu Xiu is surely effective in its
pathos. In an admirable attempt at beau-
tiful simplicity, Chen filed down her
film to the rudiments of cinema.
Dialogue is sparse, and basic camera
shots are meant to convey the film's
sentiment and its message in a funda-
mental fashion.
But, the film gets bogged down in its
own overdone sense of simplicity.
Silences become deafening in their
length, landscapes become common-
place and the film's midsection drags
on interminably. Its final moments are
delicately handled and beautifully shot,
but it runs the risk of having lost its
audience long ago.
The message of "Xiu Xiu" is an
incredibly important one. Any director
looking to take on the injustices of a
flawed bureaucracy, the pain of separa-
tion, and depressing prospect of a
youth's lost innocence would do well to
choose a story like "Xiu Xiu." However,
while it might have made a breathtaking
film short, Chen's two-hour feature
ends up too long, too basic and rather

Gourtesy of Stratosphere Entertainment

e- ., <

Actress Lu Lu stars as Xiu Xiu in "Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl," the directorial debut

the unlikely pair.
But, as time passes, it becomes
increasingly obvious that the regional
headquarters of the Revolution have no
intention of returning any of the
Educated Youths to their homes. The
rest of the film deals with Xiu Xiu's
innocence lost, and the final tempering

of her friendship with Lao An that leads
up to the film's poignant conclusion.
Directed by Joan Chen, the film has
its strong points. Lu Lu and Lopsang
give admirable performances from
opposite ends of the spectrum of acting
experience. Impressively, Lu Lu had
only two cameos to her credit before

of "Twin Peaks" actress Joan Chen.
"Xiu Xiu." Lopsang, a 20-year veteran
of Chinese theater and film, has been
awarded the title of Advanced-Level
Actor, an exemplary honor in the world
of China's Performing Arts.
Furthermore, the film's accoutrement
is breathtaking. The musical score is
unaffectedly touching in its clarity. The

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