He's the joker in the pack
Updated: 2012-01-20 10:57
By Chen Nan (China Daily)
Performers of Beijing's Hip-Hop Cross-Talk Club, founded by Gao Xiaopan, kick off the new year with two cross-talk shows, featuring both traditional and new programs. Zou Hong / China Daily
The terms kaixiang (opening the box) and fengxiang (sealing the box) refer to the first and the last performances of traditional Chinese folk artists before and after the Lunar New Year. Comedian Gao Xiaopan, one of the most promising xiangsheng, or cross-talk, performers, wants to continue this tradition and will lead his Hip-Hop Cross-Talk Club for two days of kaixiang shows at Haidian Theater in Beijing.
"Usually, the kaixiang show is the most important of the year as it has the best performers and the best programs. It kicks off the whole new year. If the show is successful, then the whole year will be lucky," the 26-year-old says.
Gao's Hip-Hop Cross-Talk Club, founded in May 2008, has more than 30 artists and aims to present traditional cross-talk from a youthful point of view.
Gao says the first night is themed on original cross-talk pieces created by Gao and his Hip-Hop Cross-Talk Club. A Small World, which is a new work by Gao and his partner You Xianchao, will be performed for the first time. The second night will be dedicated to classical cross-talk pieces, from such masters as Hou Baolin and Liu Baorui.
"Cross-talk makes people laugh, but it's a serious art form, and I want to breathe new life into it," Gao says.
Dubbed "the most handsome cross-talk comedian in China", Gao learned his art from Feng Baohua at the tender age of 8 in his hometown in Hebei province.
The teaching followed the old and strict master-apprentice style of learning, which meant memorizing and practicing every day.
Gao then attended the National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts. After graduating, he did various day jobs, such as working as a department store attendant and painter at a 798 Art Zone crafts shop, while performing cross-talk at night.
"I was told by many people that nobody listened to cross-talk anymore, but I didn't believe it," he recalls.
"Cross-talk needs to be updated with relevant information and lots of social issues, which young people are interested in," Gao says. "But we will not forget about tradition. The old cross-talk masters deserve respect, not only for their performing skills but also for their serious attitude toward the art form."
During the past few years, Gao has also tried his hand at producing music and movies, and working as a TV host. Even so, he says cross-talk is his focus and, as such, his club has spawned branches across Beijing, while attracting nearly 100 young cross-talk performers.
He has also cooperated with Tianjin Northern Theater Arts School to open cross-talk classes. Some renowned actors, such as Jiang Kun and Chang Guitian, have been invited to teach the classes.
"Though the club is growing bigger and better, I still feel nervous when I am about to present a new work," he says. "I feel responsible for the art form. I have added lots of modern elements into our works but I strictly adhere to the basic structures of cross-talk. I want to present authentic cross-talk. That's my ultimate goal."