Acting and Pantomime
Acting in Peking opera is almost indistinguishable from dance and pantomime. Generally, all movement follows precise choreography which is intricately connected to the musical score.
The movement of performers is therefore termed as "stylized," because it adheres to the conventions of the art form. Like a ballet dancer, the Peking opera performer is in control of every muscle. He is required to learn to replicate the steps and gestures of his role exactly as prescribed before he consider how to interpret the role for himself. Similar to other classical traditions in world culture, such as western ballet or Indian khatakali or bharatnatyam, the training is strict and rigorous. But there is flexibility in how a performer interprets the prescribed elements and learned vocabulary.
Click here to watch as Master Song Chang Rong demonstrates how a young maiden (hua dan) moves. She checks her hair on both sides, left and right, and pulls on her shoes to make sure they are tied tight, before walking out to meet the world.
As with the make-up of different characters, the stylized movement in Peking opera is frequently symbolic. What different movements symbolize depend on the convention that has been passed down over the years and internalized (or learned online, as the case may be) by the audience. One convention has the performer walk around the stage in a large circle. After he traced several large circles by foot, the common understanding is that the character has travelled a great distance - the more circles, the farther the distance he has covered.
Watch in this next video as Master Song demonstrates how to open and close a pair of doors in Peking opera.