National Ballet of China Tours U.S. with Original Full-Lengths

National Ballet of China in The Red Detachment of Women, Courtesy Lincoln Center Festival

 

This July, the National Ballet of China tours New York and the D.C. area with two of the company’s original productions: The Peony Pavilion and The Red Detachment of Women.

 

Choreographer Fei Bo based his 2008 production of The Peony Pavilion on the classic Chinese love story of the same name. Though distinctly Chinese, the work is reminiscent of the stories that have inspired Western ballets. Like in Romeo and Juliet and Giselle, The Peony Pavilion’s heroine experiences young love, heartsickness and death—themes that transcend generations, languages and cultures.

 

The Red Detachment of Women, however, was not created with universal themes in mind. China’s balletic tradition has been inextricably tied to the nation’s turbulent politics. A Russian teacher co-founded NBC’s first company and school, which he based on the Russian model, but the partnership crumbled when China’s relations with the USSR broke down in 1960. During the Cultural Revolution that followed, Chairman Mao’s third wife took control of NBC. She slashed the repertoire to only two ballets featuring communist revolutionary themes—The Red Detachment of Women was one of them. The ballet’s heroine escapes a life of imprisonment under an oppressive landlord by joining an all female division of the Red Army. With her fellow soldiers, she vanquishes the tyrant, emancipates the other slave girls, rises to leadership within her detachment and dedicates her life to the Red Army’s revolutionary cause—a political message, indeed.

 

Since China opened to the West in the 1980s, the cultural exchange in dance and other art forms has flourished. Chinese companies now incorporate works by Balanchine, Forsythe and others into their repertoire and, this summer, NBC brings two of its most unique and heritage-steeped productions to America.

 

See National Ballet of China live at the David H. Koch Theater for the Lincoln Center Festival from July 8-12, at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia on July 14 and at Saratoga Performing Arts Center July 21-22.

 

Check out a trailer for The Peony Pavilion here.

 

And for The Red Detachment of Women here.

 

For more cultural background on ballet in China, click here.

Latest Posts


Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

The Anatomy of Arabesque: Why Placement and Turnout Are Key to Achieving This Crucial Position

Audition for any school or company, and they'll likely ask for a photo in arabesque. The position not only reveals a great deal about a dancer's ability, but it is also a fundamental building block for more advanced movements, like penché or arabesque turn. Beyond technique, it can be the epitome of grace and elegance onstage, creating unforgettable images—just try to imagine Swan Lake or Balanchine's Serenade without an arabesque.

Yet many dancers are unsatisfied with their arabesque lines, and students frequently ask how to improve their extensions. (Social media posts of dancers with extreme flexibility don't help!) In an attempt to lift the back leg higher, dancers may sacrifice placement and unknowingly distort their position in the process. How can you improve the height of your back leg while maintaining proper placement and turnout? We talked to a few experts to better understand the science behind this step.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Coppélia" (1976)

Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov share the unique experience of having danced at both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet during their careers. The two overlapped at ABT in the mid-'70s, where they developed one of the best-known partnerships in ballet. They were both celebrated for their dynamism onstage; however, in this 1976 clip of the pas de deux from Coppélia, Kirkland and Baryshnikov prove they are also masters of control.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks