30-12-99, 05:11 PM (GMT)|
"Gala Performance in Beijing, PRC"|
LAST EDITED ON 31-Dec-99 AT 05:47 AM (GMT)|
The National Ballet of China (or Central Ballet of China in Chinese) is celebrating her 40th anniversary, and gave a special gala performance at the Great Hall of the People, our CONGRESS HALL on Dec.28.
Sergei Filin from Boshoi (Nina didn't come though), Jose Carreno/ Chen Yan from ABT, Chan-Hon Goh/Johan Persson from National Ballet of Canada, Li Ying /Pan Jiabin from Pittsburgh Ballet came as the guests. And a new ballet called "Butterfly Love Story (Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, in Chinese) was premiered (I write all Chinese names in Chinese order like this: Tan Yuanyuan,instead of Yuan Yuan Tan, except Chan-Hon Goh, because it's a Singaporean name).
The evening began with "the Yellow River", a new ballet of about 28 minute length, choreographed by Chen Zemei, professor of Beijing Dance Academy, using the music of our proud "Yellow River" Piano Concerto (after the Yellow River Cantata witch was composed during the World War 2). This ballet was a big success during the company's Russian tour right after its world premiere in the end of this September. It's a REVOLUTIONARY ballet but I like it very much, and I think the dancers did it very well with true emotion this time.
The second piece was "Return to the Strangeland" with Li Ying/ Pan Jiabin, ex principal dancers of the company, but now serving for Pittsburgh Ballet. Actually, Li Ying was one my favorite Chinese dancers around early 1990s. Her brilliant Esmeralda (wrong spelling?) pdd impressed me deeply some 10 years ago (right after she got a Varna silver). But they joint the company at rather a bad time. They didn't have much work to do because of the company's financial difficulty then. So, they went away, and now returned to their own country (the "strangeland"?) as the guests. I like this piece and Janacek's piano music. But it was too short. To my surprise, both Li Ying and Pan Jiabin looked much fleshier than I had expected (someone of the company joked: they must have eaten a lot of nutritious foods in USA).
Then, there was Pas de Quetre with "4 generations of prima ballerina of the company". It was a great delight for me to see my friend Feng Ying on Pointe again. She was one of our top dancers in mid-1980s (the golden age of China Ballet). She studied at Paris Opera in her early days, remained here when her colleagues left for Western countries (her colleague Zhang Wei Qiang is still dancing with Evelyn Hart in Canada, I think), and became the company's Maitresse de Ballet after her retirement a few years ago.
The next was "Tides of Thought' with Chan-Hon Goh/Johan Persson from Canada. Chan-Hon Goh (the new star from Goh's family) has never worked here, but she is the "daughter of the company" because her father was the company's principal dancer when she was born. It was a pretty long piece using the music from Gorecky Third Symphony. My friends enjoyed it very much but I didn't, because I suffered from an annoying TV camera between the stage and my eyes (I think the guy had got the permit though). But I do think both Chan-Hon Goh and Johan Persson did it very well with true emotion.
Then, there was George Balanchine's "Motive and Variations" To tell the truth, I didn't enjoy it very much. Because all of them, including Zhu Yan (winner of Varna competition 1998) and Ta Mila (Partnership Prize winner in Varna) lack the smoothness and musicality that basically needed for Balanchine's work.
The first piece after intermission was Act 2 from "The Red Detachment of Women". Again, it's a Revolutionary ballet (like a story of female SPARTACUS). The ballet was created in 1964 under the guidance of Jiang Qing (Mao's wife who died in prison after the "Culture Revolution"). But I do think it's a nice ballet, with powerful dances and colorful scenes. (It's said that this ballet had been enthusiastically welcomed in Russia when the company toured there in this October).
Next came to Giselle. Nina Ananiashvili was supposed to dance this pdd, but she didn't come for some reasons. So, Sergei Filin did it with Zhu Yan. It was the second time they had ever danced together. (Filin guested here 2 years ago and gave 2 performances of Giselle then. Since Chinese names are quite hard for him, and perhaps for many foreigners to pronounce, he called her "July"). Miss Zhu Yan seems has made very big progress in this 2 years (she said she had learnt to dance with her hart but not only her body) but apparently gained more weight since last year (hard time for Filin). Filin was very elegant, and excellent when her danced and showed great sorrow over Giselle. He was the most outstanding dancer, the true prince of that night.
Then followed the world premiere of the new ballet "The Story of Butterfly Lovers" (Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, of about 30 minute length, I think). It's an ancient romantic love story quite similar to Romeo and Juliet (the lovers became butterflies after their death). The choreographer was a young girl from Beijing Dance Academy. I like her very much and take her as my friend, but couldn't enjoy the ballet very well. There are some pretty nice PDDs in the ballet, but most of the Corps's parts seemed uninteresting for me and I didn't like the costume at all.
The most disappointing thing in that night was not this gloomy ballet but the audience. Since the congress hall is a huge hall with 10000 seats, and the tickets for this Gala performance were quite expensive, I guess most of the ballet lovers went upstairs while the political persons took their seats at the first floor. So, there was very little applause and almost no Bravo.
I guess Jose Carreno must had been influenced by the atmosphere. He was nice in La Corsaire pdd with Chen Yan. But I do think he was much better when I saw him with Susan Jaffe at the Met a few years ago. And I have to confess that I had expected a greater Chen Yan. But now I think Maria Alexandrova (of Boshoi) was much more brilliant when she danced the same piece here a few months ago.
The last piece of that night was a part of Swan Lake Act 2, performed by Zhang Jian/ Xu Gang and the Corps. Zhang Jian did it very well (it's quite tiring because she danced "Yellow River" earlier that night). She is a promising young dancer with very good ability. And I do think she has made very big progress in this few months. (She had suffered a lot from the heavy pressure after winning Moscow Competition 1996). Corps de ballet was also very nice. And big swans were wonderful, I think they (big swans) were even better than the Kirov's ones we saw a couple of months ago.
The finale was quite moving, Dai Ailian, the first Director of the company (mother of Chinese Ballet and modern dance. She was born in Trinidad-Tobago and trained in England, came back to China in early 1940s to join the war against Japanese Invader), Bai Shuxiang, the first Chinese Odette, and Bian Zushan, the first music conductor of the company, were invited to be on the stage. Bravi to them.
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