The Beijing Opera, "Jingju," is more than a place or a lyric art form: it refers to a popular tradition that has evolved over several centuries.
The companies that practise this art, which were touring companies until 1949, have inherited the ancient codes of gestures, movements, melodies and songs. The lack of stage sets is offset by a complete art form, resulting in a show that combines dance, martial arts, acrobatics, songs, mimes and poetry.
Founded in 1952, Beijing Opera School aims to teach 850 pupils aged 6 to 18, recruited from all over China through an admission exam. Teaching methods are Spartan and the multidisciplinary studies are governed with iron discipline, in order to meet the demands of this art form and encourage competition between artists, in a country of over one billion three-hundred million inhabitants.
This documentary is the first western production to be allowed in the school. The film follows the pupils during their learning process, and presents extracts from actors' shows and performances.