If a slim, handsome man or woman waits on you in a Manhattan restaurant, you just assume they are performers. But do you do the same in Chinatown and Flushing? Perhaps you should.  Since 1988, Qi Shu Fang, master of Chinese Opera, has been developing her own Peking Opera Company with her husband Ding Mei-kui in Queens. The professional lives of their company resemble those of American performing artists of all genres who juggle rehearsals, performances, lecture-demonstrations, tours, and outside jobs.   Now in their late sixties, Master Qi and Ding who trained since childhood in China, found the void of knowledge about the Peking Opera in the US was their opportunity. Though their lifestyles are modest, their art is magical.

 

This documentary directed by Alan Govenar gives us an insight as to how the Cultural Revolution affected their art and its masters, the reasons behind the elaborate costumes and makeup, a glimpse of the training.  Designed to lure you into their world, MASTER QI AND THE MONKEY KING makes you yearn to see their Peking Opera,  to study this 200 year old art combining dance, mime, singing, acrobatics, and stories, to understand its aesthetics, both visual and oral. It provokes so many basic questions about its style. Is the dancer/martial artist trained to emulate a sword? Their precise, direct swoops come to an abrupt halt, punctuated by the percussionists. Does the percussionist determine the ending or is he following the dancers?

 

Master Qi shares at her small kitchen table a joke about how three cultures handle a fan. The American wears the fan out, beating the fan in t

he heat until the paper is shredded. The Englishman sways the fan very slowly as only a true gentleman should. But the Chinaman opens the fan very deliberately and then madly wiggles his face before it…because, of course, he must preserve the fan! 

 

For more information on Master Qi, visit http://www.qishufang.com/index_files/Page693.htm

I will be bringing this charming documentary to Manipur, India for Re:Play 2013!

 

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Tags: Asian, Queens, arts, chinese, dvd, martial, opera

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