Monday, January 23, 2012

Santiago a Mil: El Encanto del Rio Amarillo

Santiago a Mil is an international theater festival that's been going on in Santiago (and a few other cities in Chile) for the month of January. This past weekend was the end of the festival and I had the chance to go see Titanic (see my thoughts here) and El Encanto del Rio Amarillo (The Charm of the Yellow River).

Sunday evening I set out to the Parque Araucano, which is not too far from where I live. This is the first time I went there, but it was not difficult to find and the stage was under a big Santiago a Mil balloon. I'll have to check out the park more carefully in the future. What I saw looked nice, but I hear there's also an aviary and rose garden. Also, I saw a family of bears with Coca-Cola:

But enough about the park. What I went to see was a performance by the Shanxi Song and Dance Troupe. This was a set of 12 dances and songs typical of the Shanxi province in northern China. It's sort of fitting considering the Chinese New Year started on Monday January 23, hence this was like a New Year's Eve.
There were plenty of seats at the park so it was more comfortable than the Titanic showing and the stage was high up so everyone could see. However, the music was a bit loud and slightly painful for the high-pitched instruments. I had a mild headache by the end of the (slightly over) 1-hour show.

We were given a program with the twelve parts, so I'll just go over each part with my opinions and pictures/videos. Remember that you can click the pictures to see them larger and that videos on YouTube also can be seen larger. The videos aren't too long and are only meant as a preview to emphasize what you missed.

First up: Tambor y Danza Oriental (Oriental Drum and Dance).
Nothing really stands out about this one in particular. Many of the dances and music performances were either about the harvest (or farming), about weddings, or just about being happy.

Second, was a solo drum performance by Cao Yan. Here's a video of part of it:
This was quite impressive. Parts were excruciatingly slow, but others were so fast I thought he would break the sticks. This was supposed to be about harvest, but I don't see how.

Next up was Linterna Roja (Red Lantern), which I think of as the main piece of the show:
Lots of happy girls jumping around with their lanterns. Santiago a Mil has an official 5-minute recording you can see here.

The next one, I could have done without. This was Rio Amarillo-Nuestro Rio Materno (Yellow River- Our Maternal River).
The man in blue-green on the left is playing the suona. What the video fails to capture is that this went on for 7 minutes, making it one of the longer pieces. The blaring of the suona for that long gave me a mild headache that did not improve with the following performances. I saw some people covering their ears. The music was really too loud and not helped by the suona.

Disfrute del Yangee (Enjoy the Yangge)
If I hadn't recorded this video I would have no memory of this one. This was one of the few pieces with vocals in the music. 

Next was a two-piece music performance. A solo of the erhu performed by Liu Hongshu.
My video captures the first part: Caballos Galopando en la Llanura (Horses Galloping on the Plain). My only regret is that this isn't really a solo: there's a pre-recorded orchestra in the background. That makes identifying the erhu much more difficult. Still, it was nice and fast paced. At the end, the musician actually make the instrument neigh like a horse. Impressive.


The following was one of the many wedding pieces: Al Compas del Tambor (To the Rythm of the Drum):
The drummers were all joyously jumping around and playing pranks on the bride and groom.


Another wedding, but more unusual: La Boda del Raton (The Rat's Wedding):
This was not a dance, just the 5 musicians performing. It was actually quite nice, a few parts reminded me of the music of the anime Mushi-Shi, which is one of my favorites series. At the end, a cat shows up (ie, one of the musicians 'miaus') and the song ends.


La Camara Nupcial (The Bridal Chambor) was the next piece. No good video, but I have a picture.:
This is what goes on when the bride and groom meet to consumate their (pre-arranged) marriage. The guy was all excited and quickly got into the proper attire. The girl was a bit shyer and it didn't help that she was wearing 3 or 4 shirts. Here she is trying to hold on to the first shirt. It was actually a pretty funny piece.

We follow that with one of the harvest-related dances. Cantaros de Comida (Food Jars)
This depicts the women bringing food to the men working out in the fields. However, with all the dancing around they do the food would have gotten cold by the time they reach them...


Next up is (yet another) wedding piece: Cancion de Boda (Wedding Song). No video, just a picture:
What's that in the table? Why yes, it happens to be some Chilean wine. It is declared good and the music continues. It's a bit ridiculous in that the two main musicians use funny sounding instruments and then their own voices to make very high-pitched, cartoonish noises as they argue.

And the last piece of the night harkens back to the Yellow River with Tambor del Rio Amarillo (Drum of the Yellow River).
One of the best parts, which I alas did not capture, was when they lined up and did a wave with their cymbals. It was like a river flowed through the stage.

And it's over and the musicians and dancers bow before the audience.

Overall Impression
It was a nice show. Some pieces were very good, others, not as much. I did have a mild headache from the loud, high-pitched music, but nothing too unbearable. It was worth it to go (it was free) and was a fun way to spend the evening. This (and a few separate plays throughout town) officially marked the end of Santiago a Mil, though this group would go on to perform on a few other cities in Chile.

I will definitely pay more attention to Santiago a Mil when it comes along next year and I encourage anyone in Chile during January to do the same.

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