David Patrick Kelly

July 19, 2019

DRAGONSPRING : an exegesis

Filed under: News — dpk3000 @ 3:35 pm

There is an urban legend in Shanghai. Construction of a major highway had to be halted when it was discovered that it would violate sacred ground considered the “home of a dragon”. Mystic rituals were requested to remove the taboo so that construction could be completed. 

     From this idea Chen Shi Zheng and his collaborators created a global, dark fairytale DRAGON SPRING PHOENIX RISE. Transporting the legend to under the Queens/ Long Island Expressway, an American Kung Fu Master known as Lone Peak runs a humble martial arts school in Flushing, Queens with his Chinese American wife, Lotus. After Lotus dies, Lone Peak is left to raise his daughter, Little Lotus. They and House Of Dragon’s most advanced and trusted students led by young master Lee,  are the secret protectors of the Dragon Spring flowing in a cavern deep beneath the location of their school. The Dragon Spring is the source of Immortality . ( This can be read symbolically as the Taoist Way, the Buddhist Enlightenment, the Golden Elixir of Chinese internal medicine.) There are no shortcuts to its attainment. Those who seek it for greedy or evil intent will self destruct. Doug Pince, a powerful international businessman and leader of a private cult of martial artists, insinuates himself into the House of Dragon in an attempt at stealing the secrets for commercial and selfish reasons. He seduces and marries Little Lotus who betrays the secrets and bears twin children who embody the fulfillment of an ancient prophesy of the rise of the Dragon Phoenix and an epoch of world peace. When she realizes her betrayal has been a trick and a trap she rebels . A battle ensues.

Martial arts is liquid architecture of violence and spiritual transcendence.

Every move has a name and a history and a relation to physical and spiritual health as well as a martial application.

References in DSPR include Baguazhang Kung Fu, old school Kung Fu films such as Pride’s Deadly Fury, Wong Kar Wai’s The Grand Master, the late, great Louis Cha’s multi-volume Kung Fu novels such as The Deer And The Cauldron. In our deracinated culture. which has for so long ripped off the style and discarded the substance of martial arts it is long past due for an artist such as Chen Shi Zheng to wittily re-appropriate ( NYC born Kung Fu Panda authors collaborated ) in a pop art way with rigor and joy and subtle meaning authentic disciplines and ideas to share with the world. 

Everything in this explanation is not literally expressed in the show. Sometimes it is indicated by the lights or the set or a haunting song by Sia or sonic wave by Arca. Songs in DSPR are used in a way Brecht or Shakespeare or a Noh play would. The text and the stylistic acting and staging are a product of a quest CSZ and I have been on together over two decades in four award winning productions for what we have called ‘the third thing’, an amalgam of Kunqu and Western acting techniques inspired by the manifestoes of Artaud . The reduced text is in line with work of Heiner Muller or early Sam Shepard or Michael McClure or plays of the Yuan Dynasty.  The great choreographer Akram Khan, who did much of the amazing movement for the outstanding dancers,  has stated recently he thinks of martial arts as a spiritual tool. Zhang Jun our fight choreographer told me that the most important thing he learned in his ten years at Shaolin Temple was “to be a good person”.The performers in DSPR are all masters of their physical and performance styles and decided to take a chance on an interdisciplinary project.

  I remember seeing Robert Wilson’s LETTER TO QUEEN VICTORIA, Reza Abdoh’s FATHER WAS A PECULIAR MAN,  Lee Breuer’s SAINT AND THE FOOTBALL PLAYER,  Peter Brook’s MAHABHARATA , Arianne Mnouchkines  LA TERRE PROMISE and Meredith Monk’s HOUSE. The spirit of adventure and ‘speaking about the unspeakable’, in Lyotard’s phrase, has continued to inspire me ever since and must be passed on to new artists.

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