Yang Xiayu plays the leading role in Mu Guiying, a Wuju Opera piece. [Photo/Jinhua Daily]
Over the past three decades, Wuju Opera actress Yang Xiayu has performed at locations ranging from outdoor areas in small villages to grand theaters in big cities.
Yang was born in Wuyi county, Jinhua. At the age of 14, she was admitted to the Zhejiang Wuju Opera Troupe to practice swordsmanship. She spent all her youth in the practice room perfecting her skills, and she rarely rested on weekends.
In Yang's words, she would begin to panic after two or three days of rest, as she wants to always be in good physical condition.
Yang often thinks about how to rejuvenate the ancient art of Wuju Opera and attract more young audiences.
"Yang is an opera fanatic," said Wang Xiaoping, head of the Zhejiang Wuju Opera Troupe.
Wang said that every time Yang starts a new play, she always researches background information and tries to figure out her characters based on their appearance, movements and mind.
Yang has added many difficult movements and elements of modern dance, rhythmic gymnastics, and acrobatics to her operas to form a unique artistic style.
In recent years, the young people-friendly versions of Mu Guiying and The Legend of the White Snake that she stars in have become popular all over the country and attracted many foreign audiences.
In 2015, when she was 31, Yang won the Plum Performance Award, China's top award for theater and opera performances.
Every year, Yang stages more than 100 performances, among which more than 80 percent can be watched in rural areas.
As a deputy to the 14th and 15th Zhejiang Provincial Congress of the Communist Party of China, Yang is concerned about the diversity of rural cultural life and the construction of cultural spaces. She often carries out research when she performs in rural areas to promote Wuju Opera performances and art training classes in the countryside.
In recognition of her work at the grassroots level, Yang was chosen as a deputy to the 20th National Congress of the CPC, which will be held in Beijing this month.
"It is an honor, as it allows me to attend the upcoming 20th CPC National Congress and encourages me to continue my work at the grassroots level," she said.