Upon choosing Pippin for Shantou University, I knew that the rather sexual and in-your-face scenes would be difficult to do. Sure, there is certain amount giggling that comes with the semi-taboo, but it goes far beyond that here in China. There is a cultural aspect that shies away from overtly sexual. There exists no media empire bearing down images of scantily clad off-pitch women or music-video oriented rappers. Here, the pop icons are clean, cool, and wholesome. The family values support that as parents shield their children as if they never grow up. The biggest scandel on campus is when two students do anything slightly more than holding hands.
So, upon showing some of my students the DVD of Broadway version of Pippin, they were quite taken aback by pantless costumes and hippie dance sequences. Today, I found out that one of the dance teachers declined my original request for her to be the choreographer because she wanted to avoid doing the choreography for the sexual scenes.
I have already taken on a few scenes of blocking and, in particular, one song which involves a lot of women tempting the main character of Pippin. I have taken the tack of keeping it cute and funny. Although I am teaching the Modern American Musical, I am not out to shock and awe my cast into being afraid. I am trying to slowly loosen them up.
I have been met with varied success. For some, progress is getting girls to stand with their legs more than a foot apart. For others, progress is getting boys to bend their knees. But ultimately, I can’t break the culture (nor should I break the culture). I must simply show them something new and different.