Chi­nese bal­lets come to Lin­coln Cen­ter

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By NIU YUE in New York

The Big Ap­ple is in for a cou­ple of bal­let treats.

The Red De­tach­ment of Women, the first full-length Chi­nese bal­let cre­ated af­ter the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China, and The Peony Pav­il­ion, a ro­mance based on a 400-year-old epic mas­ter­piece of Kunqu opera, will take the stage at Lin­coln Cen­ter next month.

With the com­bined tal­ent of the Na­tional Bal­let of China (NBC) and the Na­tional Bal­let of China Sym­phony Or­ches­tra, two bal­lets, rep­re­sent­ing dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods in Chi­nese history, will be per­formed at this sum­mer’s 20th edi­tion of the Lin­coln Cen­ter Fes­ti­val in New York.

“The bal­lets are two of the com­pa­nies’ most suc­cess­ful and pop­u­lar pieces around the world,” said Nigel Red­den, di­rec­tor of the Lin­coln Cen­ter Fes­ti­val.

“We are very hon­ored to be in­vited by the Lin­coln Cen­ter Fes­ti­val, one of the world’s most renowned per­form­ing arts events, and to bring to New York au­di­ences two works from our reper­toire that re­flect the in­no­va­tion and de­vel­op­ment of bal­let arts in China over the past 50 years,” said Feng Ying, head of NBC.

Rec­og­nized as a mile­stone in mod­ern bal­let, The Red De­tach­ment of Women was cre­ated in 1964 based on a novel, which was sub­se­quently made into a fea­ture­length film.

It is best known in the West as the bal­let per­formed for US Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon on his visit to China in 1972.

The bal­let tells the story of a peas­ant girl who rises from servi­tude to join a cru­sad­ing, all-fe­male bat­tal­ion of Red Guards to de­feat the evil landowner who once en­slaved her.

Over the past five decades, NBC has staged nearly 4,000 per­for­mances in China and around the world.

“It’s rare to see fe­male bal­let dancers wear­ing mil­i­tary uni­forms on the stage even in the West,” said Feng.

The other bal­let, The Peony Pav­il­ion, was pre­miered by NBC in 2008 in Bei­jing.

It is one of the most fa­mous love sto­ries in the Chi­nese canon, writ­ten in 1598, the same year as Shake­speare’s Romeo and Juliet, to which it is of­ten com­pared.

Teenager Du Lini­ang falls asleep by a peony pav­il­ion and dreams of meet­ing Liu Meng­mei, a young scholar, and fall­ing in love with him. But when she awak­ens, she be­comes lovesick and dies. Her ghost de­scends to the un­der­world where it is de­cided that she was in­deed sup­posed to marry Liu.

She re­turns to the gar­den and asks Liu to ex­hume her body and re­turn her to life, but when he does, he is ar­rested for be­ing a grave rob­ber.

Feng said, to­tally dif­fer­ent from the for­mer bal­let, “di­rec­tor Li Li­uyi, China’s renowned play di­rec­tor, de­signed three fig­ures for the hero­ine, to ex­press her dif­fer­ent spir­i­tual planes, which help build the char­ac­ter more richly and stronger.”

Mean­while, “a mod­ern chore­o­graphic vo­cab­u­lary and suc­cinct but pow­er­ful stage de­sign have been adopted, which will bring a more ro­man­tic at­mos­phere and a more im­mer­sive feel­ing to au­di­ences,” said Feng.

Founded in 1959, NBC found a suc­cess­ful path for the de­vel­op­ment of Chi­nese bal­let fus­ing styles of the clas­si­cal and the mod­ern by stag­ing Western bal­lets and cre­at­ing works of its own with dis­tinct na­tional char­ac­ter­is­tics

“A mis­sion of the fes­ti­val is to bring New York au­di­ences ex­cep­tional artists and com­pa­nies who they may rarely or never get to see,” Red­den added. Hong Xiao in New York con­trib­uted to this story.


A scene

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