Visual performance elements
Beijing opera performers utilize four main skills. The first two are song and speech. The third is dance-acting. This includes pure dance, pantomime, and all other types of dance. The final skill is combat, which includes both acrobatics and fighting with all manner of weaponry. All of these skills are expected to be performed effortlessly, in keeping with the spirit of the art form.
Aesthetic aims and principles of movement
Beijing opera follows other traditional Chinese arts in emphasizing meaning, rather than accuracy. The highest aim of performers is to put beauty into every motion. Indeed, performers are strictly criticized for lacking beauty during training. Additionally, performers are taught to create a synthesis between the different aspects of Beijing opera. The four skills of Beijing opera are not separate, but rather should be combined in a single performance. One skill may take precedence at certain moments during a play, but this does not mean that other actions should cease.
Many performances deal with behaviors that occur in daily life. However, in accordance with the overriding principle of beauty, such behaviors are stylized to be presented on stage. Beijing opera does not aim to accurately represent reality. Experts of the art form contrast the principles of Beijing opera with the principle of Mo, mimesis or imitation, that is found in western dramas. Beijing opera should be suggestive, not imitative. The literal aspects of scenes are removed or stylized to better represent intangible emotions and characters. The most common stylization method in Beijing opera is roundness. Every motion and pose is carefully manipulated to avoid sharp angles and straight lines. A character looking upon an object above them will sweep their eyes in a circular motion from low to high before landing on the object. Similarly, a character will sweep their hand in an arc from left to right in order to indicate an object on the right. This avoidance of sharp angles extends to three dimensional movement as well; reversals of orientation often take the form of a smooth, S-shaped curve. All of these general principles of aesthetics are present within other performance elements as well.
When Jackie has described his process of choreographing action he describes this process almost exactly, of including all the elements, that the sound as well as the action is important, the use of the space and elements within it, the emphasis on every day actions and objects being included, of there being a reason for every movement that evolves out of the previous movement and evolves into the next one.
In essence creating that unique synthesis of all the elements to create beauty.
And isn't his choreography just that - beautiful?