Home > Features > Langdon Bekyi: A Tibetan dancer

Langdon Bekyi: A Tibetan dancer

Publish Time: 2018-08-22 Author: From: China Tibet Online

The sky in Lhasa is gradually turning from blue to red, then to gray and dark.

On the south bank of the Lhasa River, the mountains are covered in green. Stars light up a stage that is set for a story which is over 1,300 years old.

On the stage, the actors are still perfecting their rehearsal, while under the stage, a Tibetan woman with a microphone stands with her gaze fixated on the actors, from time to time demonstrating a dance move.

She will speak through the intercom in a moment, then talk with a person taking notes to the side.

With this being her sixth year of performances, she is familiar with everything in the production, from the rehearsal, to settings, lighting, props, costumes, dance steps, and movements, but she still stares intently at the actors on stage, not letting anything go unnoticed.

Her name is Langdon Bekyi, and she is a first-grade director of China and the deputy director and artistic director of the Princess Wencheng large-scale epic drama.

From the dancers to the director, she understands that the details can determine success or failure.

"My enlightenment for dance comes from my mother," Langdon Bekyi said. The girl who grew up watching her mother dance has a very close relationship with it. In 1977, the Beijing Dance Academy came to Tibet to recruit students. Relying on her natural talent and mastery, at 13 years old Bekyi embarked on the road of dance.

While dealing with Beijing's unfamiliar climate, food, and other obstacles like speaking in Mandari, she had to overcome the hardship of dance practice.

"You look at performances by dancers on a stage, it's a very beautiful art, but the professional training is very brutal. This art form is particularly difficult."

She would wake up at five o'clock in the morning, go through rehearsals, and train till night. Aside from eating and using the restroom, there was very little free time. After five years of this "blood, sweat, and tears" path, Bekyi graduated with top marks.

"When I graduated, a lot of work units in Beijing gave me offers," she said. Faced with several opportunities, Bekyi chose to return to Tibet.

The Tibetan people are adept at song and dance, and they have created an ancient and illustrious song and dance culture. Such rich and abundant artistic resources could not all be mastered in a single lifetime.

"So, I chose to return to my hometown. I wanted to share my own version of Tibetan folk song and dance with a broader audience," Bekyi said.

Back in Tibet, Bekyi entered the highest art palace in Tibet: the Tibet Song and Dance Troupe. She danced in the number one female role in a production of the Tibetan dance Reba Feeling and was warmly received by audiences, and praises such as "the doting star", "the honorable number one female role" and other adorations soon followed, and Bekyi began to be active on major national and Tibet's artistic stages, winning numerous awards.

In 1994, she graced the cover of the seventh issue of the China Pictorial, and this Tibetan woman with a nice face, beautiful body, and elegant temperament appeared in people's sights.

However, fate suddenly sent her a warning.

After years of dancing and fatigue, it was starting to become unbearable for her body. She even began gasping as she walked.

Bekyi went to the doctor to have her body checked.

"She had arrhythmia, fat on the left side of the heart, and other problems, and the doctor said she should not dance anymore."

Bekyi always felt that the dance she performed "only grazed the surface of the ocean" of Tibetan song and dance. Holding on to the belief of "doing professional dance for a lifetime", Bekyi decided to move behind the curtain, go behind the scenes and do dance choreography.

Bekyi knew that transitioning from dancer to choreographer would be difficult.

"Dancing means perfecting the appearance of already-made dances, but choreography is different. A choreographer needs to consider the inheritance of the song and dance culture and must integrate a personal understanding and thought of the dance."

Bekyi feels that the richness of Tibetan folk song and dance makes an artist "deeply responsible" for the choreography.

In 2012, the National Center for Performing Art of China invited Bekyi to participate in a rehearsal of the large-scale indoor song and dance drama Princess Wencheng.

Princess Wencheng was married to the then king of Tubo Kingdom, helping the Tang Dynasty emperor cement relations with the Tubo Kingdom, and also bringing advanced techniques of handicrafts, medical care, and culture to the Tibetan people.

Against the backdrop of the height of the Tang Dynasty and with vibrant costumes and unique characteristics of the song and dance of the plateau, the audience is captivated by the scene onstage. After the performance, the actors' curtain call lasts for nearly 20 minutes as the audience stood and clapped.

The success that the Princess Wencheng performance has enjoyed would be considered a great glory for any director. After the success of the stage play, Bekyi was invited to create the Princess Wencheng live-action drama.

The concept of a live-action drama was strange for Tibetans, as there had never been a live-action drama in Tibet before. So how would audiences react?

It would be a question of connecting Tibetan song and dance with a magnificent epic story. With this in mind, Bekyi took her team to the inland to study for six months.

Common circle dance is illuminated onstage, dancers dance the energetic drol dance, and the sound of the aga dance is like a rainbow. In the end, dozens of Tibetan intangible cultural heritages were integrated into the performance.

In addition to professional actors, the cast is comprised of extras from local farming and nomadic areas, with 800 farmers and nomads participating in the show.

In the past six years, there have been about 2-3 performances per week. Whether they are domestic or international tourists in Tibet or farmers and nomads from other Tibetan-inhabited areas, everyone who has seen Princess Wencheng has become more familiar with the story of the marriage between the Tibetan king and Han princess through the beautiful dance.

It is also this epic drama that has extended the stage life of Langdon Bekyi.

Editor: Tommy Tan.

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