Perfect coordination of hands and mouth - Clapper ballad and Allegretto
Clapper Ballad and Allegretto are both story-telling and singing with theatrical rhyming. However, they have slight differences.
Although they are both performed with the same form of reciting and singing with a strong rhythm, and the words of their songs are complete and regular verse, they differ in styles, dialects, rhymes and tunes. Allegretto or kuaibanshu which developed on the basis of Allegretto is a form that relates stories with complex plots and creates typical figures. Its items generally are medium' and full-length ones. The melodies' words usually adhere to a strict pattern of lines and rhymes.
Allegretto items are usually short, and tell stories of a strong, rational and sentimental nature. It has a comparable free approach to rhyme called huazhe, meaning that the rhyme can change within a section of verse. Both Clapper Ballad and kuaibanshu adopt the sentence structure of the seven-word antithetical couplet, but in practice the sentence form is free as long as there is no contradiction in the rhyming during the recitals or songs, and adding or deducting words is allowed. Different styles and dialects of Clapper Ballad exist in various places, so there are many types of tunes. Examples are Zhubanshu in Shandong, gong-drum song in Shanghai and Kuabanshu in Tianjin, but the most renowned and influential is Shandong Clapper Ballad.
There are also various styles and dialects of Allegretto such as shulaibao (a folk art featuring rhythmic storytelling to clapper accompaniment) and Shaanxi Allegretto. Both Clapper Ballad and Allegretto have a very simple form of performance. The actor usually stands to recite and sing, accompanied by the playing of a small percussion instrument which he holds in one hand. The items performed by one actor or two, to more than three actors are called solo, cross rhymed dialogue and group rhymed dialogue, respectively the impromptu clapping instruments differ according to the types of melody.
For instance, the Shandong Clapper Ballad performer holds two small crescent-shaped bronze pieces in one hand, the manipulation of which is called yuanyangban. For shulaibao, a kind of clapper ballad, or kuathen, two pairs of bamboo clapping instruments are used, one big pair and one small pair, the former composed of two bamboo pieces, the latter, of five pieces. The pieces are held together by string. Clapper Ballad and Allegretto adopt the approaches of Chinese traditional poetry and rely on rhetorical skil1s such as parallelism, alliteration, rhyme, metaphor, harmony and ambiguity.