CriticalDance Forum

Ballet in China
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Dec 21, 2002 4:05 am ]
Post subject:  Ballet in China

Three articles looking at different aspects of the art in the world's most populous country:

A ballet fan - Wang Ermin
from The China Daily

By anyone's standards, Wang Ermin is a dedicated ballet fan. The Beijing-based maintenance engineer has collected 100 kg worth of memorabilia since first being bewitched by ballet in 1978.
And while he can remember when a ticket to a top show cost just 2 jiao, he's prepared to do whatever it takes to get his hands on a 680 yuan (US$81) ticket these days. Far from being the highbrow, cash-rich connoisseur many of us associate with the art, Wang gets by on a salary of 2,000 yuan (US$240) per month.

On Sunday of this week he had a warm glow as he waited with hundreds of others in the snow for entrance to a special ballet lecture at the Poly Theatre. Inside, around 2,000 ballet buffs, many parents with their children, listened to Zhao Ruheng, head of the Central Ballet of China.

After the lecture, they enjoyed highlights of several ballets which will be staged at the turn of the year by the troupe.

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Articles about ballet training in China always seem to mention pain.

Grace under pressure
By Li Shuo for The China Daily

From this Christmas to the start of next year, dozens of ballet performances will lighten up the capital stage over winter.
Troupes from home and abroad will stage a series of diverse performances.

Beijing Weekend went behind the scenes to find out about the passion, pain and pleasure of the people who make it all possible.


It's 8 am. Xie Lijun, 13, still feels sleepy.

Yet she is already standing to attention with 15 classmates in the high and spacious classroom of the Middle School affiliated to Beijing Dancing Institute, waiting for her daily 90-minute ballet lesson.

After a brief greeting with their teacher Yu Jing, she begins stretching her legs at the bar.

The girls, with their long hair tied up in buns, wear navy blue one-piece gym suits. They look especially graceful with pretty long legs clad in white stockings and soft ballet shoes.

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Ballet in Beijing
from China Daily

Fountain of Tears

The Central Ballet of China, also known as the National Ballet of China, is to perform Fountain of Tears. Inspired by Russian poet Pushkin's poem, the ballet is choreographed by Ben Stevenson of the American Houston Ballet Troupe. The story tells how a Mongolian king falls in love with a princess from Poland when his army invades Europe. 80-580 yuan (US$9-70). 7:30 pm, Dec 21-22. Poly Theatre (####). Tel: 6506-5345, 6500-1188 ext 5126

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Author:  Fouette [ Sat Dec 21, 2002 9:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet in China

Eeps! The "Chen Li'e" mentioned in the second article is my teacher! This article gave me a deeper look into her life - and I'm not thrilled about that. She was definitely a first-class dancer, but due to her size (she's a bit petite), she was unable to make it into principal roles. :( However, she's a great teacher!
The Beijing Dance Academy in China is definitely a great dance school, and they deliver dancers with awesome physical facilities to the National Ballet of China, but sometimes I wonder if they are too strict. They use the old Soviet system of measuring the length of your legs compared to the length of your body, and that alone limits many who love to dance but fail to reach the standard of physical "beauty". These kids often go on to other professional dance schools, but their training there can never equal the training of the Beijing Dance Academy. In my opinion, this system is too limiting. What do you think?

<small>[ 21 December 2002, 10:41 AM: Message edited by: Fouette ]</small>

Author:  Fouette [ Sat Dec 21, 2002 9:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet in China

I went to see "The Fountain of Tears" (my second time) tonight, with the two leads danced by Wang Qimin and Meng Ningning. They were both beautiful, but the latter lacks some of the force that is needed for her character - Zalimar (I can't remember what her name is). I didn't care too much for the choreography in the first act, but the second act was great. Wang Qimin was tragic yet strong as Maria - not only was her technique solid, but her Maria was determined (even though she was heartbroken). Overall, the performance went well!

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Dec 21, 2002 11:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet in China

Hi Fouette! I think the author was misguided in her approach to your teacher's career. A dancer who makes it into the corps is a success and if you become a soloist, you are very successful. If we judged other professions by the criteria in the article, then every teacher who didn't become a Headmaster would be a failure.

Chen Li'e clearly had a successful career as a dancer and I'm delighted that she is now a successful teacher as well.

Author:  Fouette [ Sun Dec 22, 2002 9:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet in China

Stuart, I'd like to think that too, that making it as a professional dancer is a success no matter what. Sadly, in China, the general notion is that if you don't make it to a principal dancer, you haven't "succeeded". How sad is that?!

Author:  Kevin Ng [ Mon Dec 23, 2002 2:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet in China

Fouette, can you please tell me what overseas dance companies are due to tour Beijing in the near future?

Author:  Fouette [ Mon Dec 23, 2002 9:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet in China

I believe the Guangzhou Ballet is either here or coming soon with "Mei Lan Fang" (opera ballet) and "Turandot". A Russian company is coming as well, but I don't know which one it is - it's translated as "The National Ballet of Russia". They're coming to perform "Swan Lake", "Sleeping Beauty", "Don Quixote", and another one - I can't remember which. I'll find out by Thursday.

Author:  Kevin Ng [ Mon Dec 23, 2002 9:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet in China

Thanks Fouette. It's interesting that yet another Russian company is coming to Beijing to dance Swan Lake, after the Kirov Ballet's tour two months ago with Swan Lake and Jewels.

Author:  Fouette [ Mon Dec 23, 2002 9:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet in China

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see either, but I heard "Jewels" was only for professional artists.
I don't know if I agree with the author of the article about Wang Ermin. It seems to me that the National Ballet of China is churning out new ballets. A new "Coppelia", a new "The Fountain of Tears", a new "Raise the Red Lantern", a new "Nutcracker" - apparently, there may be a new "Swan Lake" next. What's going to come next?

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Jan 21, 2003 4:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet in China

Arabian night to remember
By JIE JIE for New China Daily

If you are exhausted of the sleeping beauty, white swan, country girl Giselle or the lovely siblings in "Nutcracker," here comes a chance to see a somewhat special ballet during the forthcoming Spring Festival.
In their ground-breaking China tour, Ballet International from Indiana, the United States, will perform a new signature repertoire - "A Thousand and One Nights" - at the Cultural Palace of Nationalities from January 20 to 27.

The company will also bring "Carmen," a one-act ballet choreographed by Alberto Alonso which tells the timeless seductive tale of a Gypsy girl.

And "Russian Treasures," a compilation of scenes collected from some classic Russian repertory including excerpts from "Swan Lake," "Raymonda," "The Sleeping Beauty," and "Paquita," will also be staged.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for our company," said Eldar Aliev, Ballet International's artistic director.

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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Jan 21, 2003 4:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet in China

American dances her way to prize
By WANG SHANSHAN for The New China Daily

What do you want to do in your life?" 24-year-old Aly Rose was asked one day in 1996 in Texas by her mother, who was to have major surgery the next day.
"I want to pursue a master's degree in medicine or a doctorate in psychology," said the daughter.

"No, that's not what I mean. I mean, 'What do you really want to do in your life?'" said the mother.

"I want to go to China," Rose answered in a low voice as she chuckled to herself, thinking the idea may seem absurd to her mother.

"Look at me," her mother said. "I am 54. I am an educated woman and I have devoted all my life to you, your father and your brother.

"You are not married and you don't have children. You can be replaced at your job. So just follow your fantasies."

Following her fantasies, Rose sold her jewellery, car and apartment and went in China in 1996.

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