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The Peacock Princess-Yang Liping


Bai people is never short of famous celebrities. The most remarkable and well-known Bai woman is sure to be Yang Liping. Unlike singers and film stars who make their appearance on TV frequently, Yang only shows up on grand occassions such as The Spring Festival Gala Evening. However, her name is known by all chinese people. If you ask a CHinese people about Yang Liping, their first response is very much likely to be "oh, the peacock princess". This is because Yang was first known by people in her dance Peacock Princess. Since peacock dance is a famous Dai dancing, therefore, most people mistake her as Dai. But she is actually a authentic Bai woman from Dali.

Today's Yang has accomplished both success and fame. However, she was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Yang was born in a poor and ordianry peasant family. Her father abandoned them during the culture revolution due to the unbearable pressure. As a result, the heavy burden of raising up her little brother and sister fell on her and her mother. Yang was a sensible child and also a capable helper to her mother. She was adept at rice transplanting, wheat harvesting, poultry feeding as well as firewood cutting. She was competent for all kinds of housework.

Later, her family moved to Xishuangbanna. One day, the chairman of Xishuangbanna Song and Dance Troupe noticed her when she was doing radio exercise on the playground. Since then, she became one of them.

Yang Liping, a celebrated dancer-choreographer of Bai ethnicity, has made it her mission to preserve things that seem out of date and has founded a school to that end. Chen Nan reports in Beijing.

Dancer and choreographer Yang Liping, from the Bai ethnic group, made a fashion statement at a Ferrari auto show in Yunnan province's capital Kunming. Instead of a regular, or designer purse, she was seen carrying a bamboo basket, an accessory favored by Bai women.Once, by chance, she was chosen to be the leading role in a stage show called Peacock Princess. Her excellent performance won great populartion for her and seized the opportunity to join Central Nationalities Song and Dance Ensemble in BJ for her. Her dream of going to BJ was eventually realized. However, the training in BJ was quite different from what expected. As a folk dancer, Yang believed that folk dancers should follow the rhythm of the nature, in other words, their dance movements should be natural and flexible. However, the training she received was more of ballet, which is a fixed pattern of movements. Yang refused to participate in such training because she believe such training would deprive her of the natural instincts in her and made her body frigid. As a result, Yang was isolated by both classmates and teachers. However, she confined herself in her dorm during the day, either sleeping or watching myriads of dancing video types to absord the essence of other dancers, in the nights, she came to the empty dancing classroom to practice.

In the national Dancing Competition, the underdog amazed the entire hall with her dancing Spirit of Peacock. She took on everything including choreography, costume making, music and all the others. She even sold her precious watch in order to pay for the costume. Siince then, she was invited to perform in the Spring Festival Gala Party for several years in a roll.

However, Yang has more in mind. She wanted to put on a show presenting the diversified dancing and singing of ethnic groups in YN. She wanted to pass along the essence of folk dancing. As a local born and bred, Yang knows about YN more than anyone else and decided to search for talented dancers from different ethnic groups in remote villages. Some young men were farming in the field before they were chosen. The result was satisfying, she had chosen 60 dancers and brought to KM. It might be hard to believe but most of them had never been to big city like KM before, let alone formal training.

The creation of the show was not smooth. They came across all kinds of obstables, such as funding shortfall, epidemic SARS which forbide gathering, doubt about the popularity of the show by the goverment and so on. She sold out her house in Dali, turn to friends for funding, and even broke her bottomline of not shooting advertisement. The entire troupe persevered in pracitcing despite the poor living condition.

In 2003, the show eventually made their debut and had won great popularity. It's called Dynamic YN. Every day, thousands of audience rush to YN Art Theater to watch the show. It presents the anthentic and genuine folk dance of various ingenous ethinic groups in YN.

Now, Yang has retired from the performance. As a 54-year-old woman, she remained beautiful and enegertic. People are curious about how she keep herself in such perfect shape. SHe exposed her strict diet, morning:one bottle of salt water, three cups of Puer tea, lunch: two pieces of beef,  dinner: two apples at night and one piece of beef.

Now she remained single but she did have a happy marriage with a Taiwan businessman. However, her marriage ended when she made to make the choice between the baby and her career. The doctor told her that she need more fat to sustain the pregnancy, however, this contradicts with her dancing career.

Yang, 54, wore a tight blue top and loose red pants, made from a quilt cover. Her waist-length hair was tied up in a ponytail.

Yang says she never consciously dresses up like a fashionista, whatever the occasion. She is amused when people call her a fashion icon.

"I just love everything from the village where I come from. Some people might say that my preference for rural things, including clothes and living habits, are very tu (out of date). But in my eyes, they are treasures," she says.

The show, Dynamic Yunnan, which has been performed more than 3,000 times around the world, turned Yang into an iconic figure of Yunnan province and an internationally acclaimed dancer-choreographer. Experts say Yang has not only developed a highly personal style, but has played a significant role in popularizing Yunnan's folk dances as well.

Her niece, Cai Qi, is regarded as her successor. The slender girl, who wears her hair long, much like Yang, has been dancing with her mentor since she learned to walk.

Cai Qi, who has danced in Dynamic Yunnan and Mysterious Tibet, will play major roles in Peacock.