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Dance show axed by epidemic becomes online hit

Updated: Aug 11, 2022 By ZHENG CAIXIONG in Guangzhou CHINA DAILY Print
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The director and cast of a dance drama performance recently forced online due to an outbreak of COVID-19 have expressed their excitement at learning that the show has become a bit of an internet hit.

Awakening Lion by the Guangzhou Song and Dance Theater was originally scheduled for live performance at the Sichuan Grand Theater in Chengdu from July 20 to 21, but was instead broadcast online due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The last-minute change, though a disappointment for the cast and crew, turned out to have a silver lining as the online performance has received more than 3.2 million views.

Erpan Omar, one of the lead actors expressed his surprise and gratitude at the unexpected success.

"I feel that our hard work and training has not been in vain. This is the best reward to come out of the situation for all the cast and crew," he told China Daily.

Liu Chuan, general manager of Sichuan Grand Theater, said that the live performances were canceled on July 19, one day before the schedule, but that he hadn't wanted to give up and so had looked for an alternative solution.

"All 88 cast members and crew had already arrived in Chengdu, and had done multiple rehearsals and all the sets were ready on stage," Liu said. "It would have been a pity not to put on the show because of the pandemic."

The fact that all the tickets for the live performances had sold out added to Liu's confidence.

"This showed just how much people love this drama," he said.

After discussing the situation with the show's director, Shi Qianjin, Liu decided to livestream the performance and in his words, "bring beautiful enjoyment to an online audience".

Tickets for the livestream cost just 1 yuan (15 cents) per person, much lower than the price for the live performance.

To the artists' surprise, the show began trending on Chinese social media even before the webcast.

Actress Liu Xingyue said that many of the cast were deeply moved reading comments from netizens after the performance, praising them and encouraging them to keep going.

"Livestream viewers applauded us, and encouraged us to pursue our love and passion," she said. "But I still hope to communicate directly with audiences in the theater in the months to come, and I think it will be even more moving."

Erpan said that a webcast is a good alternative when a live event has been canceled because of COVID-19. But sitting in the theater is different from watching at home, as one pleasure of a stage show is the charm of the setting, he said, adding that he hopes to be able to resume live performances in the near future.

Shi said that Awakening Lion enjoys a good reputation and has built up a large fan base since it made its debut in 2018.

"But the webcast exceeded our expectations," Shi said. "I hope it will help boost confidence in the recovery of the domestic performance market.

"Live webcasts are a new venture in the current circumstances, but we are looking forward even more to seeing audiences in theaters in the near future."

Awakening Lion won China's Lotus Award in 2019, the top national award for dance performances.

According to Ding Ying, a publicity executive for the Guangzhou Song and Dance Theater, the drama is scheduled to be performed live in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, Changsha, Hunan province and Nanjing, Jiangsu province, later this year.

Pan Jiaying contributed to this story.

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