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Written by Bridget Au

"Although the desert and mountain terrain is breathtaking at first glance, the series is eternally stuck in its yellowish background that gets very tiresome on the eyes. Trust me, by the 15th episode I thought I be getting jaundice. "


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Chinese Title
"For Moh Wong Sah" (literally translates to fire dance yellow sand)

No. of episodes
32

Year
2006

Cast
Ada Choi Siu Fun as Jiu Yook
Bowie Lam Bo Yee as Yim Man Hei
Gigi Lai Zhi as Kai Ming Fung
Moses Chan Ho as Sung Dong Sing
Kenny Wong Tak Bun as Sung Dong Yeung
Charmaine Sheh Si Maan as Ka Chun Fun
Maggie Siu Mei Kei as Long Yuet
Chung King Fai as Yim Lo Ye (father to Man Hei)
Chan Hung Lit as Uncle Ma
Chow Ka Yee as Siu Kam
Rebecca Chan Sau Yu as Siu Hung (aunt to Man Hei)

Foreword
Dubbed ‘War and Beauty II’ by some due to the reappearance of more than half of its cast, I would consider DOP to be an equally good, if not better, TVB series. I've been waiting and waiting for TVB to return to its days of writing a script consisting of strong characters, secrets, lies, revenge, and hypocrisy and The Dance of Passion gives me all of that. An exceptionally well-acted, compelling series. Highly recommended.

Quick Summary
Northwestern China, 1930’s. Yim Ka Po is a remote desert village located somewhere in northwestern China. It is a village inhabited by two families battling in a power struggle, the ruling Yim family and the more or less useless, gambling Sung family. The Yim tribe is headed by Yim Man Hei, a ruthless, deaf man and the Sung tribe is headed by Jiu Yook, the intelligent widow of the former Sung leader.

Their lives are governed by their traditional emphasis on the purity and ‘honour’ of the women in the village, with any kind of destruction of a woman’s honour having the power to bring the entire tribe down. This creates both internal and external tension within the village, with both families engaged in a cat-and-mouse game to reveal any suspicious activity concerning the women of the village. The women, in turn, rise above their suffering in an effort for self-preservation, sometimes befriending each other for support (Ming Fun and Chun Fun) and at other times turning against each other in the worst of ways (Long Yuet and Kwai Lan).

The tension and drama all culminate in one of the most ridiculous endings in TVB history, which all but destroy the credibility of this series. You really have to see the ending for yourself because it is so hilariously out of place that I am pulling my hair out just thinking about it. I’m still mad about the ending. Anyway, for those of you who want to know who dies, here’s the list – Jiu Yook, Jiu Yook’s son Dong Hiu, Kwai Lan, and Bowie becomes blind too.

On Acting
Ada Choi was just weird. Usually she plays two kinds of characters. Type 1 is playful, young, and ever-energetic (Armed Reaction IV, Healing Hands I-II, Files of Justice), Type 2 is ladylike, gentle, and intelligent (Where the Legend Begins)… and as a person, Ada comes off as girly, friendly, and genuine. Jiu Yook is none of those things. She is young in age, but old in the sense that she has a high social status and is also a mother. She is calculative and yet everything she did (bad or good) was motivated by one thing only: her beloved son, so in that sense she is compassionate and does have a heart. While Ada did a fine job portraying the many facets of Jiu Yook, including her transformation to the mellow, I-live-for-nothing-now-that-my-son-is-dead woman… there is something that isn’t quite right with her. It could have been a breakthrough role, but in my opinion Ada was wrongly cast.

Gigi Lai’s performance gave me the shock of my life. She has never been on the top of my 'Actress to Watch' list, especially after her horribly overrated and overacting performance in War and Beauty. She's a sweet girl in real life, but she is one of TVB's ugliest criers (along with Flora Chan, Yoyo Mung, and Tavia Yeung). Thank goodness she only has one or two short crying scenes in DOP. In fact, she is exceptional in here and I commend this series for changing my opinion of her. Kai Ming Fung was my favourite character of this series, and Gigi gave her depth, strength, intelligence, and plenty of personality. Dare I say, she delivers the series' strongest female performance.

Charmaine Sheh is in her 700th role as the weak, quiet waif and delivers nothing extraordinary. With that said, she has surprisingly excellent chemistry with Moses Chan and her friendship chemistry with Gigi Lai (who her character rivalled in W&B) is equally phenomenal. There are times when she whines too much as Chun Fun, but in general she gains the audience’s sympathy with her character’s many troubles.

I have never really liked Maggie Siu, probably because she often plays icy characters (Healing Hands, At the Threshold of an Era) and even comes off as cold and unfriendly in real life. But I felt she gave a very nice performance here as the gentle, devoted wife Long Yuet. She was equally good when her character became a little stronger and smarter when she had to take over the family's leadership role. Good chemistry with Kenny Wong too.

Kenny Wong, the least well-known member of the main cast, gives an average performance of a useless man. Not great, but adequate. But I have two words for him: Button up. No one needs to see your bare chest for more than one episode, thanks.

Bowie Lam was excellent as usual. His performance was somewhat overshadowed by other actors whose performances improved so much in this series from past performances (Gigi Lai, Moses Chan, Maggie Siu, even Charmaine Sheh). Bowie, on the other hand, is consistently excellent. In particular, he made a very convincing deaf man who spent much of his life concealing the fact that he was deaf. He also has great chemistry with the entire cast.

Moses Chan was a shocker too. I have never liked him in drama, but here he proves that he has improved a lot. He made a lovely couple with Charmaine Sheh’s Chun Fun and achieves a remarkable balance between controlled emotion and explosive anger as Dong Yeung that I can only describe as shocking. I guess this series proves that many in TVB can act, as long as they’re in the right role.

Ke-le-fe nominated for Most Improved Actress Chow Ka Yee was wonderful as Siu Kam. Her performance was impressive simply because she was able to effectively emote even though she was behind a scarf 90% of the time. The older actress who plays Kwai Laan was also really good. Chan Hung Lit’s accent is annoying as hell but he is one competent veteran actor and this series proves is once again.

The one glaringly bad performance in this series comes from Chung King Fai, who plays Yim Lo Ye. A true pity because he is the oldest actor (and supposedly the veteran one of the cast). Why was he so awful? Because he seemed like a jolly old man, like Santa Claus almost. Yim Lo Ye is supposed to be cold, calculative, and unbelievably chauvinistic, but I see no sign of that kind of sinister intelligence in Chung King Fai's performance. I can only imagine what Lo Hoi Pang would have done with this role. There is also something wrong with the way Chung talks, like his speech is rhythmically wrong. I can’t quite explain it. Basically when he talks there are unnatural pauses and he also speaks way too slowly – by the end of his sentences my eyes have already glazed over! Rebecca Chan's totally blank expression as his mentally disabled sister was more interesting to watch.

On Characters
Favourite Character
Kai Ming Fung. A strong woman who was truly in love with her husband and did everything in her power to protect him.

Favourite Couple
I do like Ming Fung and Man Hei, no matter how badly Man Hei treated her. I also liked Long Yuet and Dong Yeung at the beginning of the series. Dong Sing and Chun Fun were fine but too predictable.

Most Useless
A toss-up between Sung Dong Yeung and Yim Man Tin. Sung Dong Yeung was rash, impulsive, and unable to protect his family – he’s like a cow, all strength and no intelligence. Man Tin was basically a dog to his father, obedient with no mind of his own, except his lovesick obsession with Ming Fung, who he earlier abandoned because he was such a coward.

Greatest Transformation
Long Yuet. Though Jiu Yook could also take this award, her transformation was reasonable, because she lost the one motivation she had, her son. Long Yuet, on the other hand, suddenly became a more manipulative, cunning, and cold person for her family’s interests, while her love for her husband (which is what drove her at the beginning) somewhat dimmed at the end. I blame the writers.

Most Pitiful
Nope, not Chun Fun, who many a time whined about how everyone connected to her is ultimately doomed. Not Ming Fung, who was raped by Man Hei. Not Jiu Yook for being married at a young age. I thought the most pitiful was Kwai Lan, who was not only raped by her master but became pregnant, then suffering from illness when her fetus died and was never removed from her stomach, and then ultimately murdered (by Long Yuet, of all people). Or maybe Dong Hiu, Jiu Yook’s young son who was accidentally shot and killed by Man Hei.


Best Scenes
Plenty.

When Ming Fung confronts Man Hei about her will to leave and how she will do anything to leave: “If you don’t let me leave I will continue to do everything in my power to do so. One day passes and I will burn down your house. Another day passes and I will burn down your business. As long as I am your wife, I will be against you”.

Whenever the two families meet to discuss various issues. Enormous tension and amazing acting by some of the veterans.

When Ming Fung discovers that her aunt-in-law (Rebecca Chan) isn’t actually mentally disabled. Only an actress of Chan’s calibre can convey so convincingly without uttering a single word.

Things That Make You Go “Huh?”
How Ming Fung ended up falling in love with Man Hei. She had always been against her arranged marriage and loathed the man, and then he ended up raping her as well. What woman in her right mind would end up falling in love with a man you already hated and then raped you as well? Totally illogical.

Same goes for Chun Fun. In a sense Dong Sing raped her as well because Chun Fun thought she was sleeping with Dong Yeung. How on earth did she end up falling in love with Dong Sing?

Did Man Hei actually love Jiu Yook or was he just regretful about accidentally killing her son? I suspect he did love her for some time but then realized that Ming Fung was the woman for him.

Criticisms
There are some negative reviews out there about this series, and also websites and media reporting that this series started out with high ratings and then declined in popularity as the drama went on. Although personally I highly enjoyed this series, I can understand why the ratings dropped so drastically over time. Here are the three main criticisms I have with this series.

Cinematography. Although the desert and mountain terrain is breathtaking at first glance, the series is eternally stuck in its yellowish background that gets very tiresome on the eyes. Trust me, by the 15th episode I thought I’d be getting jaundice.

The premise of the series can really turn off modern audiences in this day and age where La Femme Desperado wins the TVB award for Best Series, I’m pretty sure many people feel disgusted by how much women suffered in the storyline of this series. I know I was one of the ones who were pretty sickened by it. While War and Beauty was adored for its presentation of women as strong, intelligent, and powerful figures, I figure that you have to see this series as entertainment and not get so caught up in the whole ‘omigod I can’t believe they treat women this way’ social aspect in order to enjoy this drama for what it is – good writing, good direction, good acting

The ending. I praised the writers of War and Beauty for giving us an unconventional yet fitting ending, and I condemn the writers of The Dance of Passion for ruining the previous excellent 31 episodes with the final 10 minutes of the drama where they unsuccessfully attempted to ‘connect’ the ancient element of this series to the present day with scenes of tourists in the modern age visiting and taking photos of the village. This, along with the scene of an old granny who looked nothing like Charmaine Sheh grinning from ear to ear as she spotted the aged Moses Chan in the crowd was supposed to be touching, but I laughed.

Rating


Through the Grapevine
I watched an interview with the cast members shortly after I watched this series. Some interesting discoveries (voted by cast members): Gigi was the pickiest member of the cast and has a long list of phobias including heights, bugs, and germs. She also packed so much for filming that she exceeded the travel limit. Bowie was voted the most caring cast member: he bought down jackets for the entire cast as well as the filming crew. Moses Chan and surprisingly Charmaine Sheh were voted most able to withstand the tough conditions of the desert setting (including sand blowing everywhere, a mini tornado during filming and getting stuck in a well for hours to film one of their love scenes).

This series was nominated for a slew of TVB Awards including Best Series, Best Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actress/Actor, and Most Improved Actress. Kenny Wong won the Best Supporting Actor award for his role as Dong Yeung in this series.


1 comments:

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