Chinese ballet dances into New York
Updated: 2015-07-09 10:20
By NIU YUE in New York(China Daily USA)
The Peony Pavilion, one of the most famous love stories in the Chinese canon, came to Lincoln Center on Wednesday courtesy of a performance by the National Ballet of China (NBC).
Adapted from the opera written by Chinese master Tang Xianzu in 1598, The Peony Pavilion is often compared to Romeo and Juliet, which Shakespeare wrote in the same year.
In the tale, teenager Du Liniang falls asleep by a peony pavilion and dreams of meeting Liu Mengmei, a young scholar. In her dream, they fall in love, 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 grave robbing.
The operatic version of The Peony Pavilion was staged at Lincoln Center in 1999 in a 20-hour-long kunqu performance.
The NBC re-tells the story using the vocabulary of modern choreography.
"This ballet is a result of the combination of all modern elements, but comes out of traditional Chinese aesthetics," said Feng Ying, head of the NBC.
"I hope New York audiences can enjoy both the modern and traditional in the ballet," Feng added.
In the ballet, three figures of the heroine representing her different spiritual planes share the stage to help build the character into a richer and stronger heroine.
The minimalist set design creates a more romantic, ethereal atmosphere and invites the audience to become immersed in the story.
"I hope Western audiences can put themselves in the scenes to feel the story," said Fei Bo, choreographer of The Peony Pavilion and resident choreographer of the NBC.
"What they feel is probably not a detailed story, but a kind of beauty, a feeling about art, which is just what we want to express," Fei added.
“We are delighted to have the National Ballet of China join the distinguished group of ballet companies that have performed on this stage, including the Bolshoi Ballet, the Mariinsky Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet and the Royal Ballet, among many others,” said Nigel Redden, director of the Lincoln Center Festival.
As the 20th edition of the Lincoln Center Festival in New York this year, Redden said, a mission of the festival is to bring New York audiences exceptional artists and companies who they may rarely or never get to see.
The other ballet the NBC will perform as part of the festival, The Red Detachment of Women, is the first full-length Chinese ballet and was performed for President Richard Nixon on his visit to China in 1972.
There are three performances of The Peony Pavilion and two of The Red Detachment of Women scheduled from July 8 to 12 in the David H. Koch Theater.
Hong Xiao in New York contributed to this story.