Size doesn’t mat­ter for bal­let com­pany

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | ART - By ALYWINCHEW aly­win@chi­

The Suzhou Bal­let Com­pany (SBC) may be rel­a­tively newwhen com­pared to its coun­ter­parts in China, but it has cer­tainly punched above its weight when it comesto­break­ingnewfron­tiers in the sphere of artis­tic ex­pres­sion.

Led by hus­band and wife duo Pan Ji­abin and Li Ying, both of whom are the artis­tic di­rec­tors, the com­pany has re­ceived crit­i­cal ac­claim since its in­cep­tion in 2007 for its out­stand­ing fu­sion of Chi­nese cul­ture with Western clas­sics such as Cop­pelia and Swan Lake. Last year, the SBC be­came the only Chi­nese bal­let group to ever be in­vited to per­form at the pres­ti­gious Opera Fes­ti­val in By­d­goszcz, Poland.

The troupe is also one of the fewin China to have its very own theater, which is lo­cated in the Suzhou Cul­ture and Arts Cen­ter.

Li, who used to be one of the star bal­leri­nas in Pitts­burgh Bal­let, at­tributes their suc­cess to an un­wa­ver­ing ded­i­ca­tion to creativ­ity and the abil­ity to cater to a global au­di­ence.

“Some peo­ple ques­tioned us when we first de­cided to use Western mu­sic in Chi­nese bal­let per­for­mances. They said that Chi­nese pro­duc­tions should com­prise only of Chi­nese el­e­ments, else we might not be con­sid­ered for awards,” says Li.

“But when I cre­ate some­thing, it’s not to win awards — it’s to tran­scend the bound­aries and achieve artis­tic break­throughs. And by adopt­ing this ap­proach, we have been able to letWestern au­di­ences bet­ter learn about Chi­nese cul­ture through con­cepts they are fa­mil­iar with.”

Be­sides the grip­ping dis­plays of grace and agility, an­other high­light of the per­for­mances by the SBC is the con­tem­po­rary out­fits on show, most of which are de­signed based on valu­able in­put by the two artis­tic di­rec­tors them­selves. What also sets the troupe apart is their pen­chant for beau­ti­fully crafted min­i­mal­ist stage sets.

Fol­low­ing a sell-out crowd of their Romeo and Juliet per­for­mance in­March, theSBCwill mark an­other mile­stone later this year when it trav­els to Sin­ga­pore’s Es­planade The­atres for the first time to present their ren­di­tion of Giselle by the great Rus­sian com­poser Py­otr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

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