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Macao Cantonese Opera thrives with Portuguese folk dances

Macao, where the East meets the West and the old mingles with the new, is renowned for its diversified culture. Here, traditional Chinese culture still gains public attention and popularity, while its Portuguese heritage is also remembered.

Here in this community theater in Macao, local artists are busily rehearsing the Cantonese Opera show Lin Chong. Based on the fictional hero in the classic Chinese novel Water Margin, the show will be staged at the gala celebrating the 15th anniversary of Macao’s return to China. All the performers are amateurs, and since they have to work during the day, rehearsals usually have to be at night.

Just like in other Cantonese-speaking areas like the Guangdong province and Hong Kong, Cantonese Opera is very popular in Macao. That popularity has grown after the art form was included in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2009. Now, there are more than 260 Cantonese opera troupes in Macao.

“People in Macao just love Cantonese Opera. Many people will watch several shows a week. That’s why there are so many Cantonese opera troupes in the city,” said Luo Xingbing, the director of Cantonese Opera Training Center.

And 330 meters above the ground in the Macao Tower, a group of young dancers dressed traditional Portuguese costumes are challenging those intimidating heights to perform a traditional Portuguese folk dance in an attempt to set a new Guinness world record.

“I’m happy that the dance may set a new Guinness record. But it’s also a celebration of the 15th anniversary of Macao’s return to China,” said Luo Xingbing.

Portuguese folk dance is now very popular among the younger generation in Macao. Almost every college in the city has a dance troupe with members consisting of both locals and the Portuguese.

With the flourish of Cantonese Opera and Portuguese folk dance, as well as other art forms, Macao is quickly becoming a cultural hub in Southern China.