Banned Chinese classic novel not just about sex
Professional dancer Yan Xiaoqiang, from the Beijing Dance Theatre, takes on the role of Ximen Qing - a lustful merchant who has numerous lovers - in a dance-drama adaptation of The Golden Lotus, or Jin Ping Mei, a sexually-explicit 17th-century novel that is still banned in China.
Yan, 27, speaks to My Paper about the challenges of the role and how the Chinese classic is still relevant in today's society.
Can you tell us more about your dance background?
I went to dance school at 10 and did ballet, classical and folk dance. Then, I went to Beijing Dance Academy in 2002 and majored in Chinese classical dance.
After four years of study, I went to graduate school and majored in dance-performance research at the Beijing Dance Academy.
How did you feel when you were told that you got this role?
I had never read the novel or (watched the) film. But people talk a lot about Ximen: Handsome, powerful, rich, and has a desire to conquer women. I enjoyed doing (the role).
Was it difficult to understand the novel?
Of course, when you...mature, you have a deep understanding, not about the dance, but about human nature.
It's not just about sex, it's deeply about human nature, a desire for something, jealousy, betrayal and revenge. (They're) common elements in every famous novel and play.
How is the novel still relevant in today's society?
It's not (just) about the sex. It's about humans, human nature never changes.
Was it difficult taking on the role?
The difficulty lies in the sex scenes; they're not real, but the chemistry between the characters, you have to (show) that.
It's difficult for everyone to show that part of (themselves) on stage. That's the challenge.
How do you relate to Ximen?
Everyone has a dark side and an addiction to sex. It's very enjoyable to dance this part. (You will see) that I will dance to "death" on stage.
Was it awkward for you to wear a nude bodice on stage?
For me, it was fine. But especially for the girls, I think it was awkward.