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China's golden youth

Variety show at the Blaisdell features talented performers

By Steven Mark

LAST UPDATED: 1:33 p.m. HST, Aug 27, 2010

Imagine a Juilliard Institute, a "Fame" school and perhaps a Bela Karolyi Gymnastics Institute rolled into one, and you might have the equivalent of the Shanghai Children's Palace.

The Children's Palace, founded by Soong Ching Ling, wife of Sun Yat-Sen, the founder of modern China and an 'Iolani grad, was the first arts and academic institution for children to be established in the Peoples Republic of China, and remains one of its most prestigious. A group of 45 children from the institution will be giving a performance tonight showcasing the many young artists who study at the school.

"They have to take an exam to get in there. It's very selective, so it's like the cream of the cream," said Yen Chun, co-founder of the U.S. Soong Ching Ling foundation, a sponsor of the visit.

The show, featuring youngsters ages 10 to 17, includes a wide variety of performance, from Western and Chinese music and calligraphy to ballet and a martial-arts opera. There will be spectacular costumes and dances displaying some of the ethnic minority regions of China, which even for Chinese have held a special fascination, Chun said.


Variety show featuring 45 of China's most talented children

Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall, 777 Ward Ave.

When: 7:30 p.m. tonight

Cost: $15-$35

Info: Blaisdell box office, 591-2211; Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000; or the Troupe Committee at

597-8135 or 286-0506


"This kind of show caters to every interest," Chun said. "It's not only for dance lovers, but for fans of music, singing, every kind of entertainment."

Many of the children were featured at the Shanghai World Expo this year, Chun said. "Any time you saw a child performing, that was a student at the Shanghai Children's Palace."

This is the fourth time that the Shanghai Children's Palace has sent a group to Hawaii, but the first in nearly 10 years. The government-backed organization has also sent group to perform at the White House and throughout Europe and Asia. The Olana Ai Hula Halau will be joining the visitors to make it a multicultural affair.

Walter Chang, chairman of the organization that is bringing the troupe to Hawaii, said a particularly entertaining performance this year will be a selection from a Beijing opera that features martial arts. Beijing opera, as seen in the movie "Farewell My Concubine," is a highly stylized art form that can feature dance or martial arts as much as singing.

"It's a scene about two friends who are in a dark room, and they think they're fighting enemies," he said. "Their movements are so integrated, they get so close with the weapons, it's really amazing. ... The audience will be able to see everything."

Previous visits have included performers who have gone on to study abroad, and this year is no different. The group's featured violinist, 15-year-old Yang Ou Ka Lin, already has achieved international success, placing third in a competition in Romania. Pianist Yang Chao Jun, 15, recently won several national competitions for young pianists and has performed abroad.

Chun said Yang Chao Jun's story is an example of how the Palace nurtures and supports talented children.

"Her father lost his job and her mother was ill, so she had to borrow (videos) to learn how to play," she said.

"As soon as they heard her, they gave her a full scholarship."

Chun, a native of Hong Kong who studied piano for 10 years, has heard recordings of both young musicians, and said the audience can expect a lot.

"They gave me goose bumps," she said.

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