Asia News: Russian Dance Tour Criticized; True Colors; Korean Cos. Cut Ties With China; Malaysia Vote Upends Concerts

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MIXED REACTION: Russia’s Igor Moiseyev Ballet ensemble has begun a tour in Japan to mixed reviews and some criticism because of its home country’s invasion of Ukraine. Photo by YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP via Getty Images)



Russian Dance Tour Criticized

Russia’s Igor Moiseyev Academic Ensemble of Popular Dance on Oct. 17 started a tour of Japan amid some controversy concerning Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The 80-member dance troupe is participating in a Festival of Russian Culture that is taking place this season in Japan despite the invasion.

According the public broadcaster NHK, the ballet company was originally to tour Japan in 2020, but COVID confounded those plans.

Audience members who attended the first performance told NHK that they felt sorry for the dance company for having to “perform under these circumstances.” One student said that Russia’s actions in Ukraine have nothing to do with its culture.

However, others have criticized the organizers of the tour for carrying it out, including Ukrainian refugees in Japan, who started an online petition calling for the tour to be cancelled. The leader of the petition movement said that “a country’s culture cannot be separated from its people,” and while Russian artists can still perform, Ukrainian artists are too busy just trying to survive.

True Colors Festival To Livestream

True Colors Festival The Concert 2022, which is to take place Nov. 19-20 at the Tokyo Garden auditorium, will now be livestreamed for free, according to the organizers.

The True Colors Festival, which is sponsored by The Nippon Foundation, is an international festival of performing arts that celebrates diversity and inclusion through music, film, children’s programs, and other presentations.

Since 2006, the festival has taken place in Southeast Asia and Japan, offering more than 120 artists from 30 countries for a global audience comprising more than 80 countries. The main purpose of the festival and the upcoming concert is to help “create a world where real inclusion means people with disabilities are recognized, respected and celebrated for their unique abilities and talents.”

Earlier this year, Katy Perry announced that she would take part in this year’s concert as the closing performer. Other participants will include Welsh pianist Rachel Starritt, who was born blind, and Latvian-born British “bionic” pop artist Viktoria Modesta.

Many of the other performers, totaling almost 100 singers, dancers and musicians, represent the disabled community in their respective countries.


Entertainment Companies Cutting China Ties

South Korean entertainment companies are gradually reducing their interactions with “Greater China,” according to media reports

As the Korea Times points out, most K-pop groups formed before 2015 have at least one Chinese-speaking member from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan, as a means of “targeting fans in the region” by leading their respective groups when they perform concerts or other activities in Chinese-speaking areas. The potential fan base in China is just too large to ignore.

For the most part this scheme has been successful; or, at least, it was before the COVID pandemic. Now, however, entertainment companies are cutting their ties with China due to two primary factors – the globalization of K-pop and the ongoing uncertainties about the Greater China market.

This change not only means that companies are no longer recruiting Chinese-speaking members, but that they are also reducing their business activities in the region. For instance, Hong Kong has always been the entertainment hub for attracting mainland Chinese tourists who would come to enjoy K-pop concerts, but because of unpredictable political circumstances in the city as well as  the ongoing strictness of COVID protocols, the city has become too risky as a base of operations for outside players.

As one insider told the newspaper, in a sense the abandonment of Hong Kong is a no-brainer, since there aren’t that many venues in the city appropriately large enough to count as a lucrative market compared to other Asian cities.

Add to that the fact that the PRC government, in response to South Korea’s installation of an anti-missile system that China objected to in 2016, forbade the commercial activity of K-pop groups in China as well as sales of related recordings and merchandise, the K-pop business sees little incentive to cultivate the mainland the way it once did.

Another indication of China’s dwindling importance in the K-pop world is that MAMA, a music awards ceremony created by Korea’s CJ ENM to promote K-pop in Asia, moved its main base from Hong Kong to Japan this year.

Moreover, BTS’s talent agency, HYBE, did not include Greater China in its recruitment locations for a new girl group the agency was putting together last year, though it held auditions in almost every other territory in Asia.

As a result of this and other decisions, the percentage of new K-pop groups that have recruited Chinese-speaking members has declined from 31% in the period 2012-17 to 14% in the 2018-22 period.


U.S. Orchestra Cancels Over Protocols

Despite the fact that its three-week tour of China wasn’t scheduled to take place until next May, the Philadelphia Orchestra has decided to cancel it in the face of possible COVID-19 protocols.

The ensemble was looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first visit to the People’s Republic in 1973, as well as its longstanding relationship with the country – it has toured China 12 times, more than any other American orchestra.

However, in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, the orchestra’s president and CEO, Matias Tarnopolsky, said, “It’s just not the time to go to China right now. There is too much uncertainty around COVID protocols.”

The main concern would be if any members of the touring group tested positive either before or during the tour. This summer, COVID made the orchestra’s European tour difficult, with 15 members testing positive over the course of the tour and Edinburgh officials demanding that the choir for Beethoven’s Ninth wear face masks during the performance.

The problem for the orchestra next May is that canceling the China tour means a three-week hole in its schedule that needs to be plugged since it still has to pay musicians, whether they perform or not. Tarnopolsky, however, declined to tell the Inquirer whether the current situation between the U.S. and China had any influence on his decision.

“For us,” he said, “we believe that through the Philadelphia Orchestra, greater understanding and connections between people can happen. And that’s been true since first visiting in 1973.”


Elections Play Havoc With Concerts

Malaysia’s recent announcement of a general election Nov. 19 is playing havoc with the country’s concert schedule. The Star reports that since many Malaysians must return to their hometowns on that date to vote, attendance for concerts around that time would be affected.

The Peta Kita festival, for instance, which was scheduled Nov. 19-20, was postponed only hours after the government announced the election. Featuring a number of top local stars, the festival said it would take place later this year. However, the organizers did not say anything about refunds for those who may not be able to reschedule for a later date.

In addition, Malaysian singing star Siti Nurhaliza’s concerts at the Persad Johor International Convention Center Nov. 18-19 were also postponed, according to the singer’s fan club. Earlier shows on Nurhaliza’s tour have not been affected.

As of Oct. 21, however, other concerts happening that particular week have not been postponed or canceled, including a series of shows in Kuala Lumpur featuring some major Indonesian acts. Moreover, the return of the Rock the World festival Nov. 12 is not affected.