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Like the city itself, Shanghai's cultural scene is vibrant and varied. You may choose to watch Russian ballet dancers leaping across the stage at the Shanghai Grand Theatre, but why not see some local talent? Around since 1965, the Shanghai Ballet is only one of five ballet companies in the country, and it's credited for pioneering the Chinese ballet with its signature work White-Haired Girl. Dance fans may want to also catch a kunqu opera. Created around the 14th century, kunqu is one of the oldest types of Chinese opera and the precursor to today's more common forms, like Peking opera. The classic kunqu uses a distinctive blend of song, intricate choreography, acrobatics and beautiful traditional costumes. Check to see if the Shanghai Opera House or Shanghai Oriental Art Center will feature kunqu singers or works like Peony Pavilion while you're in town.
A performing art that is particularly popular in the city is acrobatics. The home-grown but well-known Shanghai Acrobats contort their bodies in ways that will make you gasp at the Shanghai Centre Theater nightly. Shanghai Circus World hosts ERA, a permanent show that mixes traditional Chinese acrobatics with multimedia to dazzling effect. You'll see the performers do everything from dangling on aerial silk ribbons to spinning on a massive hamster wheel that is perched 33 feet above the ground.
For local visual arts, travel to 50 Moganshan Road to see Shanghai's contemporary art scene. More than 100 artists work set up shop along the winding lanes. Or head to People's Square to see the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, the city's first nonprofit, independent institution dedicated to contemporary art. The museum spotlights Chinese artists. Also in People's Square is the established Shanghai Museum, which showcases classical paintings, jade sculptures and calligraphy.
If you enjoy classical music, the Shanghai Oriental Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra regularly perform in venues like the Shanghai Oriental Art Center. You'll also find touring classical piano players from America and Europe booking dates at these concert halls.
The city is also making a name for itself by hosting some big events. Shanghai Fashion Week, an event held twice a year, draws a number of internationally known designers. And the yearly Shanghai International Literary Festival is the largest of its kind in China. Noted authors like Gore Vidal and Amy Tan have come out for the more than two-week-long March fest.