Errenzhuan of Northeast China
Also known as "Hop-Hop", Errenzhuan (a kind of folk song-dance duet) is a folk art with strong local flavor featuring ballad singing and dancing popular in Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang Provinces and Xing’an League, Hulun Buir, Tongliao and Chifeng Cities of Inner Mongolia.
Errenzhuan dates back more than 300 years. The early form of Errenzhuan was the nighttime singing of ballads popular in northeast China by performers who would do yangge dance during the day. The ballad singing was commonly called "small yangge" at that time. Later, thanks to the growth of population inside Shanhaiguan Pass and the long-time cultural exchanges between various places, Errenzhuan was greatly enriched and became what it is today, with elements from a host of other folk arts being added. These art forms include Lianhualao (a kind of ballad), Dongbei Dagu (storytelling in the dialect of Northeastern China to drum accompaniment), Taiping Drum Dance, Rattle Stick Dance, Hebei Bangzi (a type of drama in Hebei Province), shadow play, folk comic stories and many others.
There's an interesting saying that goes like this "I can skip a meal but can't skip an Errenzhuan show". It fully reflects the pursuit of artistic beauty by the working people in northeast China.
Originally, there were no female Errenzhuan performers and all female roles were played by men dressed like women. Due to different prevalent areas, Errenzhuan once developed into four styles—the east, west, south and north before forming an integrated style by drawing on one another's merits and closing the gap.
From the 1950s on, Errenzhuan went through systematic development. Female performers began to appear in the show, with more and more joining in. Scientific methods of voice production were introduced. New plays were created, musical accompaniments were diversified, costumes were redesigned, dancing skills were perfected and there were more types of props in performers’ hands.
Today, in a typical Errenzhuan show on stage, the dulcimer and pipa are among the accompaniment instruments, with occasional use of percussion instruments like drums, gongs and cymbals. Flowery umbrellas, gauze kerchiefs, long silk ribbons are used as added props. And the costumes are designed exactly according to the roles in the show and the stage is illuminated with colorful lights to set off the scenes. Errenzhuan is enjoying continuing improvement in terms of comprehensive artistic quality.