If Brides magazine ever decided to cover “Wedding of Ordos,” the editors would have to relegate all other nuptial-related topics to another issue. As seen at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater on Friday and Saturday nights, this Mongolian-themed theatrical dance extravaganza showcased enough gorgeous costuming and millinery to easily fill up all the photo spreads in a newsstand glossy.
Billed as a celebration of traditional culture from Ordos, in China’s Inner Mongolia region, “Wedding” was a pageant of rainbow colors and mostly lively choreography. (The show was presented by China Performing Arts Agency Productions.) Over the course of 80 minutes, eight scenes devised by a team that included playwright Qi Bilige and multiple choreographers (including Badema) evoked a courtship and marriage on the Asian steppe. Sometimes the bride (Sarina) and bridegroom (Baoyinamuer) met in yearning, almost balletic pas de deux; and sometimes one would mime interactions with another figure, such as the bride’s mother (Naheya) or the priest-like Blessing Man (Bateer).
But for the most part, Ordos Song and Dance Theater filled the stage with dashing ensemble numbers: male performers in blue and white, clutching handfuls of scarves as they leaped and whirled; female performers thrashing arms and chests with earthy passion, or gliding and posing gracefully in saffron garments, looking like gold ornaments brought to life.
Props and scenic elements paid homage to distinctive regional customs: One dance wound around and over a series of blue saddles arrayed on the floor; another featured prop versions of the Mongolian horse-head fiddle. A slightly comic, mime-based scene showed bridegroom and groomsmen stealthily creeping toward a set of yurts as bridesmaids pretended to bar the doors — part of the traditional Ordos wedding ritual, according to the playbill’s synopsis.
The music had a cinematic feel, with string and other instrumental sounds mixing with song and chanting. Many in the audience will probably better remember the visuals, especially the costumes, designed by Guo Jian and Tao Lei. Those peacock-feather headdresses! That richly trimmed red bridal gown! The hats topped by silver birds! It was a “Wedding” trousseau to relish.
Wren is a freelance writer.