Dance from an oasis by the desert

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Dance from an oasis by the desert

The Dunhuang Art Ensemble has done to classic Chinese dance what the New York City Ballet has done to ballet.

In its 40 years, the Chinese group has brought new life to a classic form of dance that had been waning. The group, famous for its rendition of "Flowers of the Silk Road," will perform at the Jeonju Music Festival, rounding out a series of performances by Chinese artists that are being offered throughout Korea this month. A female singer, Liu Xiumei, is also performing at the Jeonju festival.

The Dunhuang Art Ensemble rose to prominence in 1979 with its staging of the "Flowers of the Silk Road." The drama celebrates the city of Dunhuang, in Gansu province, which was one of China's cultural centers during the Tang Dynasty (618-910). Dunhuang, an oasis on the edge of a vast desert, was a central point along the famed Silk Road. Despite its prominence in arts and Buddhist philosophy, its musical history was practically lost over the centuries.

The Dunhuang Art Ensemble was founded in 1961 to help preserve the Dunhuang Grottoes, a series of caves and Buddha reliefs carved into the area's sandstone hillsides. From the beginning, the company has specialized in classical performances, recreating Dunhuang's ancient songs, music and theater. The music can be tranquil or strident, and is generally accompanied by dancers.

The ensemble's performance of "Flowers of the Silk Road" caused a great sensation across China and today is considered one of the nation's greatest dance classics. The company has performed the work throughout Europe, Asia and North America.

The troupe has produced other well-regarded, large-scale dance works, including "Dunhuang Ancient Music" and "Xi Liang Music."

The Dunhuang Art Ensemble will perform "Flowers of the Silk Road" in Korea at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. The Dunhuang Art Ensemble is one of 150 overseas companies performing at the Jeonju Sori Festival, which runs from Saturday to Sept. 1. Other traditional troupes from Asia hail from India, Mongolia and Japan.

The events at the Jeonju Sori Festival are divided into three parts: "Looking for Unknown Sounds," which introduces folk music from 11 countries; "Intensive Pansori," which features old and new masters performing traditional opera; and "Chorus," focusing on performance styles that cross national boundaries.

The festival also includes events for children and a food exposition. For more information, visit the Web site

by Joe Yong-hee

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