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National Ballet of China - 2002
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat May 11, 2002 8:51 am ]
Post subject:  National Ballet of China - 2002

<B>Innovation key to 'Coppelia' performance</B><BR>By CHEN JIE from The China Daily<P><BR>Producing new ballets and regularly staging permanent repertoires are the two fundamental goals of the National Ballet of China. <BR>Last year, the national ballet successfully presented "Raise the Red Lantern" by renowned movie director Zhang Yimou. This year, the new production is "Coppelia," choreographed by Par Isberg. <P>The debut is to be given at the Tianqiao Theatre from May 1 to 3. <P>Derived from E.T.A. Hoffmann's tale, the first "Coppelia" premiered in the Paris Opera in 1870. Ever since, the ballet, varied in versions but all sprinkled with fantasy and mysticism, has been recognized as the most significant comic ballet and has entered the repertoire of many ballet theatres throughout the world. <P><A HREF="" TARGET=_blank><B>click for more</B></A><BR>

Author:  Fouette [ Sun May 12, 2002 3:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of China - 2002

Not about Coppelia, but about the NBC in general, since Basheva brought my attention to this thread... Image<BR>Xinxin, I've never seen Wang Qimin's Giselle, although I know it did win her a gold medal. It's a good role for her - she's very light and serious, with exquisite feet. She has beautiful legs! I've seen Giselle with Zhu Yan several times, and really loved it! She's very lyrical, and her face is extremely expressive! Zhu Yan is strong, but light. I've seen a tape of her dancing wiht a foreigner at the NBC's 40th-anniversary gala, and it was a real gem. I wish I saw the second night Giselle by Tokyo Ballet, though.<BR>I've seen Ta Mila, but it's been years, and I was young then. Sun Jie is the male principal that I know and like, but I also like Huang Zhen ever since I saw him as the tyrannical "Lao Ye" in "Raise the Red Lantern", in rehearsal, and as Coppelius in Coppelia. He's very tall!<BR>I honestly think NBC's Swan Lake could use some work on acting (a class or two with Margot Fonteyn would've done wonders), but the newer works are very good.<BR>BTW, in that article about NBC's Coppelia, I don't understand the line about Giselle: "It is the first time the National Ballet of China will produce "Giselle," although the Guangzhou Ballet staged its own version five years ago and the Shanghai Ballet finished its run of "Giselle" early this year." The National Ballet of China has staged Giselle, quite a number of times, and it certainly isn't the first. What's with that? <P>

Author:  Basheva [ Sun May 12, 2002 4:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of China - 2002

Since this thread is about the National Ballet of China - 2002 - I am going to put Fouettes very informative post into this thread and close the other thread. That will keep everything together. Hope that's ok.

Member posted May 12, 2002 05:33

I was very disappointed with this performance. The first act was too slow, and didn't have the Prince's adagio solo at the end. However, the new costumes were very pretty! The pas de quatre (maybe pas de trois in some versions) was quite impressive - some extremely light tour jetes by the two male dancers, Yu bo and Li Jun, and the two female dancers, Wang Qimin and Wu Haiyan, were very light on their feet. Both were beautiful, but they were different - Wu Haiyan seems to perform for the audience more (more eye contact), while Wang Qimin seems to be wrapped in her own world. I'd like to see her smile more often, though. Otherwise, act I was quite unimpressive. The court jester wasn't so great at being cheerful.

Act II was better, but I thought Zhang Jian could do a much better job. There was nothing swan-like about her. The entrance of Odette was much too fast, and Odette seemed to show no sign of fear. There was great eye contact, but it expressed very little. Zhang Jian was a bit too tall for Han bo, the prince. I wasn't moved at all - there was no love. For example, when Odette leans against the Prince, leg in a low back attitude wrapped around him, and the Prince wraps his arms around Odette, their faces are supposed to be pressed together, eyes closed as if in perfect contentment. Well, not with Zhang Jian and Han bo! There was at least an inch of space between them, and they did not stay in the position long enough. However, the four cygnets and the three big swans were very well rehearsed, especially the big swans - perfect harmony. One of the cygnets, Wen fang I think it was, had her eyes out of sync sometimes. On the whole, the corps was good, but the principals needed more work.

During the intermission I went backstage to meet my teacher. I saw Zhu Yan in costume as a court lady, Sun Jie as one of the noblemen, the court jester, and Hou Hong Lan, the Spanish dancer. Her costume and makeup was beautiful!
Act III was by far the best! I loved the costumes and scenery, and my teacher was in it. The four princesses danced with the prince, and when they got rejected, they would rush off to their "parents" and their parents would pat them on the shoulder. That was the funniest part of the ballet! One thing I thought the NBC did well was having Von Rothbart bring in Odile and all the character dancers - each lead female dancer in the character dances would try to seduce the prince. The Spanish dancer, Hou Honglan, did a very impressive balance in developpe a la seconde with arms en haut, body en face. During the middle of the Spanish number, Odile rushed out, made eye contact with the Prince, and ran back into the wings - that had a very cool effect as well. I loved the Neapolitan dance, but I'm partially biased because I've performed it before. However, after the kick devant, it would've been better with a slight back bend.

The Hungarian dance had fun costumes, and was very lively. The star of the character dances, I think, was the male lead in the Polish mazurka - tall and bearded, he was very convincing and managed to capture my attention. Then came the black swan pdd - Zhang Jian is much better as Odile than Odette (she had an aura of evil and mystery), but her face was frozen into a smile. Von Rothbart was great! Pure evil, he was. Han Bo should smile - he's found his true love, for gosh sakes! He didn't smile at all! The two variations were fine - Han Bo just needed to smile. The coda was different - the Prince would do his grand jetes (Han Bo has good ballon), but then, Odile would enter the diagonal and do the fast enchainment which is usually after the fouettes. Zhang Jian moved too much like a robot - she didn't seduce (you should see Natalia Makarova doing the same move - couldn't be more different!). After that, all the character dancers would come together and do a little dance, while Von Rothbart slowly came forward with Odile behind his cape. He whipped it away, and by then Zhang Jian was already fouette-ing away. I don't know if anyone else noticed, but she fell off pointe, but made a very quick recovery. All the character dancers were on the side, clapping and stomping. The pdd ended in the visual climax of Odile lifted high into the air and all character dancers paying homage to her. Then, the back "window" was lit up and Odette (Zhu Yan) was shown, and the Prince rushed towards Von Rothbart, but it was too late...Zhang Jian and her entourage got away. The act ended in mass confusion of the noblemen and noblewomen, and the queen swooned.

Act IV was nothing to write home about either, but I liked the diagonal of saut de chats by the three big swans. The NBC version is one where Odette turns back into the princess, but there wasn't a magical effect to it, other than the music. Once again, Han Bo needs to smile!

Maybe I've seen too many "Swan Lakes" by now, but my standards have been going higher and higher. I thought Zhang Jian and Han Bo really need to work on their acting. I wanted to watch Zhu Yan and Sun Jie, but I couldn't go tonight due to the unreasonable amount of homework I have. Sorry this was so long.
Thank you for this review, Fouette.

[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited May 12, 2002).]

<small>[ 10-14-2002, 03:27: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun May 12, 2002 4:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of China - 2002

No need for an apology Fouette. We are all grateful to you for taking the time to describe what you saw and comment on the individual dances.<P>I'm looking forward to your future posts.

Author:  Xinxin [ Sun May 12, 2002 6:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of China - 2002

Hi, Fouette,<BR>I think the 'foreign dancer' you saw on TV must be Sergei Filin from the Bolshoi Theater. Because he is the only one foreign dancer who ever guested at NBC for many years.<BR>He came to Beijing around the end of 1997 and gave 2 performances of Giselle with Zhu Yan. Then he came again in the end of 1998 (1999?)and danced Giselle pdd at the NBC's 40 Anniversary, that was what you saw on TV.<BR>He is a very good dancer, came to Beijing again last year with Bolshoi, but I missed the show because I was in Tokyo then.<BR>You are right, both Zhu Yan and Wang Qiming are nice Giselles. Zhu Yan has wonderful technique and strong legs, but if compare with Tokyo Ballet's Yoshioka, she has to polish her upper body artistic presentation more. Wang Qiming is a lovely Giselle in the first Act, but I think she has to learn more about how to act and feel when dances the second Act. <BR>Wu Haiyan and Meng Ningning are working very hard. But actually I don't think they will become great dancers(Sorry to say this).<BR>FYI.<BR>Thanks.<P><BR><p>[This message has been edited by Xinxin (edited May 12, 2002).]

Author:  Polaire [ Sun May 12, 2002 7:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of China - 2002

Dear Fouette, <BR>can u tell me who your teacher is?

Author:  Fouette [ Sun May 12, 2002 11:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of China - 2002

Xinxin, I don't think Wu Haiyan will become a great dancer either, but she tries very hard. She was in the back row of the corps during Swan Lake, and she kept on watching Zhang Jian when her eyes were supposed to be down. Image I do wish that Meng Ningning will become a principal dancer - she has great technique and really knows how to perform, in my opinion. She's just a bit too tall.<BR>Polaire, I don't want to post this out here, but maybe you can e-mail me and tell me a bit more about yourself.

Author:  Basheva [ Sat Oct 12, 2002 12:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of China - 2002

Member# 886

posted 10-12-2002 12:15

Tonight I watched NBChina's newest ballet, "The Fountain of Tears", choreographed by Ben Stevenson and loosely based on "The Fountain of Bakhchisarai". The music is new as well, as are all the costumes and scenery. The girl in white (tragic heroine) was danced by Zhang Jian, the leader of the thieves by Sun Jie, and the woman in love with the leader of the thieves by Zhu Yan. An all-star cast!

The first act, IMHO, was poorly choreographed. The style of the dancing was a classical ballet with bits and pieces of modern dance thrown in, as well as Chinese ethnic dancing! At the beginning, there were several movements when both the music and the dancing seemed too Chinese to be in there (it's not a Chinese-ified version). Then, in the middle of a bout of classical dancing by three males, there were a few handstands... ?! The mazurka, although grand with beautiful costumes, seemed to have too much entire-cast dancing en face - somehow, that just didn't agree with me. It made the dancing seem irrelevant to the story, but the scene wasn't. The end of the first act was very moving, however - when the thieves kill the whole family - my heart was wrenching for the young girl. She saw her whole family killed, as well as her fiance.

The second act was much better choreographed, and everything was excellent - dancing, costumes, choreography, music, lights, etc.! Zhu Yan did a great job as the woman cast aside by the leader of the thieves - at first her excitement that he was coming home was extremely evident and lively, then she became persistent in trying to win his love back, finally becoming bitter. After getting to know the "girl in white" (as I'll call her) - as Zhu Yan was meant to kill her - one could see her internal battle of wills - to kill the girl who stole her man or not? She chose not to, and the two became fast friends, but once she sees the leader's hat in the room, she goes crazy with jealousy and stabs the "girl in white", Zhang Jian. Her emotions were very well portrayed, and the costume looked great on her! I have to say it was pretty revealing - bare midriff, low cut, with sheer pants, all in red with gold trimmings - but it looked so great on her! The headdress was awesome as well - it was very complicated, with two long pigtails with sequins running all through it. Zhu Yan looked beautiful and exotic at the same time. The force of her character was well brought-out by her solid technique and strength.

I normally don't enjoy Zhang Jian's dancing - she has the longest legs, and an ideal dancer's body (but she isn't anorexically thin), but there's no depth and emotion. However, I was really moved tonight - she wrenched my heart as the girl who lost everyone she loves in a matter of minutes, and also has to put up with the ardent advances of the murderer who killed her fiance. Although the leader of the thieves (the murderer) really did fall in love with her, he was quite insistent that she loves him too. Her despair and utter heartbreak reached out to me, and I was genuinely sad when she was killed by Zhu Yan. Her costumes weren't as stand-out as Zhu Yan's dazzling red one, but they suited her character - being all white.

The most memorable part probably was the very end, when Zhu Yan and Zhang Jian both died (Zhu Yan threw herself off a building for killing an innocent girl). You see the leader of the thieves kneeling in front of a grave, despondent. Then the ghost of Zhang Jian comes out as the thief's dream. They dance a short pdd, but when she steps back behind the grave, the door of the tomb lights up and it's actually a thin sheet of water gliding over a piece of transculent green glass - thus the "fountain of tears". The ballet ends with the thief kneeling towards the grave, and Zhang Jian standing behind the fountain of tears, with an angelic light shining upon her. I was also sad that there was no mention of Zhu Yan again - her love to the thief was admirable, even after the callous way he treated her. I nearly cried in the end!

All in all, it was a good ballet, and quite well danced, although the first act definitely needs work! The men were so-so except for the second-in-command of the thieves - he had the most dancing to do, and it was excellent. I think the part of the woman betrayed is best danced by Zhu Yan - nobody else has her fire and strength to portray a bitter and hating woman. However, the part of the "girl in white" could have been equally well danced by most of the principals of the NBChina, in my opinion - Zhang Jian wasn't irreplacable like Zhu Yan. Zhu Yan would have also made a great "girl in white", with her sensitive expressiveness. If anyone has a chance to see this, you must!

<small>[ 10-14-2002, 03:30: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Oct 18, 2002 5:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of China - 2002

'Fountain of Tears' to debut
By CHEN JIE for China Daily

The National Ballet of China has proven once again that it is one of the most active and productive Chinese performing arts ensembles working with well-known foreign artists and promoting Chinese ballet.

Following last year's hit production "Raise the Red Lantern" and the Chinese version of the "Nutcracker," and this year's "Coppelia," choreographed by renowned Swedish dancer and choreographer Par Isberg, the company is debuting its latest production "The Fountain of Tears" at the Tianqiao Theatre from today to Sunday.

Choreographer Ben Stevenson, 66, is an old friend of the company, and of Chinese ballet.

"China is my second home," he said.

In 1977, he travelled to China for the first time as part of a Sino-US cultural exchange programme. Ever since then, he has returned almost every year to teach at the Beijing Dance Academy.

click for more

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