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LONDON FOR FREE! – Chinese New Year Celebration at the V&A

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Late Night at the V&A: Welcoming the Year of the Pig – Chinese New Year 2007

‘The best things in life are free.’ This is certainly true in London, where you’d automatically expect everything to be hyper expensive. Well, let me prove you wrong:

Tonight I went to the V&A, which is open until 10pm every Friday. They had a special event on this evening, as on Sunday the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Fire Pig starts.

For that there was a programme of performances by Chinese artists in the Lecture Room. As places are limited, you had to get there early to get a ticket. Which was free, but still, you needed a ticket. Indeed the room filled up and some late-comers couldn’t get in.

Somehow the performances really touched me. I’ve done Cirque du Soleil and such, but that is nothing compared to the wave of emotions that came over me watching these acrobats and dancers tonight.

Maybe it was because it wasn’t all perfect and polished. Maybe it was because it was in a Lecture Room in a Museum with brown (and from mould stained) sound proof wall covering and not in a purpose-built performance location. Maybe it was because I didn’t have to pay a fortune (which I’d never do anyway), but a little bit of commitment. Maybe it was because I was close to the action (I sat in the third row), as the performers were right in front of us.

Somehow I felt very close to the performers and so did the entire audience. It was authentic and real. And the acts were difficult (though they looked so easy) and caused the spectators to hold their breath only to release a relieved ‘ah’ when the performance ended well.

First there was a Chinese artist who painted a colourful painting of two horses within a matter of minutes and actually only using black Chinese ink.

After a Gluttonous Pig Dance to welcome the Chinese New Year of the Pig, two young Chinese girls showed a choreography with Diabolos, or Chinese Yoyos as they called them.

Then followed an amazing Candle Lights Dance. Actually it was several candles on chandeliers. Stunning to see how the dancer balanced the chandelier on her head. But breathtaking to see her with chandeliers on head, hands and feet, and still dancing!

The two girls showed more acrobatic skills with balancing acts and foot juggling. Just that while balancing on a rola bola (a board set upon a cylinder), the girl was holding a stick with her mouth, on which she was spinning a triangle, on which was a spinning stick on which was a spinning plate! And the foot juggling involved a heavy flower pot and a table! Which spun so fast, you’d expect it to break out into the audience any moment.

After this came a Face Changing Opera piece ‘King of Masks’, which was rather magic, as there wasn’t a chance to figure out how this performer managed to switch between masks to no mask to a variety of masks again.

The tension that was brought up throughout these extraordinary acts and moved tears to my eyes, as I was so impressed, was released in a Fan Dance that the audience could participate in.

All in all we had been held in awe for 1 ½ hours and after that there was still enough time to wander about the V&A museum.

Which is a special treat in itself. It’s not so busy, so you feel like you have the entire museum to yourself. It’s not so bright, so in the dimness everything looks more mysteriously. It’s not so noisy, so it’s like a meditation walk you take through the variety of sculptures, clothes, paintings, artefacts. 

One of the most romantic things to do in London – if you have somebody you can be romantic with, that is! 😉

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