Martial arts, Monkey King at River Hongbao

Performers from the Song and Dance Theatre from Nanjing and the Hwa Kang Dance Troupe from the Chinese Culture University in Taipei will perform at this year's festival, which marks the 30th anniversary of River Hongbao.
Performers from the Song and Dance Theatre from Nanjing and the Hwa Kang Dance Troupe from the Chinese Culture University in Taipei will perform at this year's festival, which marks the 30th anniversary of River Hongbao. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Two acclaimed overseas troupes to add flair to annual festive event

Taiwanese dancer Ho Yu-wen last performed at the River Hongbao in 1997. Nineteen years later, she is returning to Singapore's annual Chinese New Year event as a choreographer with the same group, the Hwa Kang Dance Troupe, from the Chinese Culture University in Taipei.

It is one of two highly-acclaimed overseas dance troupes set to perform at this year's festival at the Marina Bay floating platform, along with the Song and Dance Theatre from Nanjing City.

They will perform on the first five nights, starting tonight.

At a preview of the performance yesterday, Ms Ho said in Mandarin: "It feels so surreal that I performed at River Hongbao 19 years ago as a dancer. I'm a dance teacher now, and it's incredible that the event has been around all these years. It's familiar and so heartwarming to see some of the same organisers again."

This year marks the 30th anniversary of River Hongbao. The nine-day event from Feb 6 to 14 will feature fireworks on each night.

The 18-strong Hwa Kang Dance Troupe will incorporate elements of martial arts, including the use of nunchucks and Chinese spears, into their dance.

The performance by Nanjing's Song and Dance Theatre will be inspired by the Chinese folktale Journey To The West, to tie in with the Year of the Monkey. Its 25 performers will showcase an excerpt from a Chinese opera with the Monkey King, and a Mongolian folk song sung by a male quartet.

Mr Shi Zhi Yuan, 23, who will appear as the Monkey King, said in Mandarin: "The venue is especially big and extravagant, but the weather is too hot. In Nanjing, it's about minus 4 deg C. The difference in temperature will be hard to get used to, especially with the many layers of costume and heavy headgear that I have to wear. I'll be sweating a lot, but it'll be worth it."

It is also the second time Nanjing's Song and Dance Theatre is making an appearance at River Hongbao. They performed at the event five years ago in 2011.

The dance troupes arrived in Singapore on Thursday. They have spent almost three months preparing for the event.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be the guest of honour at its opening today. More than one million visitors are expected at this year's event, organised by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Tourism Board and People's Association. Admission is free.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2016, with the headline 'Martial arts, Monkey King at River Hongbao'. Print Edition | Subscribe