CriticalDance Forum

Guangdong Military Acrobatic Troupe's Swan Lake
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Author:  Poohtunia [ Thu Feb 02, 2006 4:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Guangdong Military Acrobatic Troupe's Swan Lake

China's Bold 'Swan,' Ready for Export
The New York Times
Published: February 2, 2006
Demonstrating the unconventional blend of classical ballet and traditional Chinese acrobatics they perfected for the new "Swan Lake," the delicate Ms. Wu, 24, did a pirouette, aloft on the shoulder and outstretched arm of the muscular Mr. Wei, 34, who is also her husband. She also rose up, stunningly, on pointe on Mr. Wei's head. There followed a gymnastic pas de deux.
Click here
There is an unbelievable video clip, and still picture, in today's NYT.

Author:  Tom Skelton [ Thu Feb 02, 2006 4:22 pm ]
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Wu is married to Wei?


Author:  mehunt [ Fri Feb 03, 2006 2:14 am ]
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FREAKY!!! That is one crazy video of them with the ballerina doing a slow promenade in arabeque on pointe -- ON HIS HEAD? I thought ballet was becoming gymnastic -- but this is crazy!

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Feb 03, 2006 3:07 am ]
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I enjoy Chinese circus and if this fusion show came to London I would go and see it. It is an amazing trick and I salute the artists who created it.

However, with a group like Momix, at their best, the combination of dance and gymnastics is used to achieve an effect beyond the trick itself, whether it be humourous, emotional or whatever. In the NYT video clip (DO see it!) we see the astonishing pointe work a la tête out of context, but even with that caveat it seemed to have little to do with anything beyond the trick. For similar reasons, technical exercises such as the Rose Adagio and 32 fouettes, while kinda interesting, are not the pinnacles of the dance experience for me.

Nevertheless, congratulations again to the performers for pulling off the most extraordinary trick I'm likely to see this year or any other year for that matter.

Author:  Poohtunia [ Fri Feb 03, 2006 2:22 pm ]
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I have spent way, way too much time today watching that video clip over and over and over again. It is amazing!

Author:  Azlan [ Tue Feb 14, 2006 12:15 am ]
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I just saw it for the first time. I don't know if I'll pay $100.00 to see it live or $1,000.00 to keep it at a safe distance...

Author:  spangles [ Sun Feb 26, 2006 8:41 pm ]
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Wow! what an amazing video clip. left me quite exhausted. I think I danced and performed every muscular movement with them and all in six seconds. ha ha ha (or is that just old age talking) :wink:

Author:  mehunt [ Wed Aug 02, 2006 8:11 pm ]
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More video of the Guangdong Swan Lake on Youtube.


Author:  djb [ Thu Aug 03, 2006 10:48 am ]
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I do rather like the idea of having acrobats as entertainment in the third act.

Does Odette appear to be registering any emotions anywhere in the clip?

I wonder whether the men dance (ballet) in this piece.

Does Odile do the 32 fouettes and, if so, on whose head?

Author:  Dean Speer [ Thu Aug 03, 2006 1:15 pm ]
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Totally delicious! This means that now when my students complain or want to whine about something, I can show them this! Hurray! :shock:

Author:  jeffsh [ Mon Aug 07, 2006 10:37 pm ]
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No, the men do not dance (ballet) in this piece.
No, Odile does not do the 32 fouettes.
Actually a Australian friend suggeted to me (after watching it with me in Shanghai last year) they should substitute two leads with two real ballet dancers in some sections to make it more ballet like.

Author:  mehunt [ Tue Aug 08, 2006 9:41 am ]
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Thanks, Jeffsh.

I'm curious -- I noticed that you could see wires in the section with the people being tossed from one pole to another. Are wires visible in other sections as well? Of course, I don't detect them in the parts with the swan balanced on his head, but perhaps in the sort of flying fish move?

Author:  jeffsh [ Wed Aug 23, 2006 10:21 pm ]
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it's basically an acrobat show with Swan Lake story line. So safety wire is used whenever there is any high flying sequences

Author:  cerise [ Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Guangdong Military Acrobatic Troupe Swan Lake @ ROH 05/08/08

There are plenty of other reviews of the 2008 UK summer performances, but here's mine:

Guangdong Military Acrobatic Troupe
Swan Lake
Royal Opera House, London
5th August 2008

The eyes of the world are on China as I write this (06/08/08). As the Olympics opens in Beijing, the city’s tablecloth of hospitality is tainted by a range of political stains, old and new. Amongst these globally visible happenings ‘Swan Lake’ opens at the Royal Opera House in London: on the face of it, what is new?

This ‘Swan Lake’ is not particularly new (it was first choreographed in 2006), but it is news. Guangdong Military Acrobatic Troupe is here to make a historical and political statement, as well as an aesthetic jibe at the status quo. With ROH full, and a queue of stoical curious enthusiasts waiting for return tickets, vicarious ‘yellow fever’ is rife in central London. That the company have the audacity to call their production ‘Swan Lake’ (hotly debated in overheard interval murmurings), that it has been so prominently programmed (The Lowry, ROH til August 10th, Royal Concert Hall Nottingham August 13th-16th), and that the production uses (and abuses) the original Tchaikovsky score sets the tone; this company have rocked the genre and poked fun at the institution of classical dance, like the naughtiest child in the class who grows up to be a multi-million pound entrepreneur. This ‘Swan Lake’ is so wrong it goes full circle and becomes an absolute truth. It reminds us right from the start as the Swan Queen formerly known as Odette sails away from the opening scene diagonally upwards off stage on a high wire that ballet is ridiculous. The movement language, the trained-within-an-inch-of-their lives bodies, the exaggerated mime, the costumes, the stories are all fabulous but ridiculous. Ballet evolved as entertainment, and why the British public should be so aggrieved that Guangdong choreographer Zhao Ming has gone back to the original idea of creating an escapist spectacle to show off the fantastical bodies of the circus-worthy (here jugglers, tumblers, trapeze artists, contortionists, clowns, rollerskaters, stiltwalkers, unicyclists, illusionists and tight-rope walkers all feature), and punctuate the practically non-existent storyline with world first gymnastic stunts (need I mention Wu Zhengdan’s pointe work on her partner/husband Wei Baohua’s shoulder and head?), is, I believe, short-sighted hypocrisy. Can we so soon have forgotten the outcry that surrounded the first dancer seen on pointe, Marie Taglioni as La Sylphide in 1832? It was the controversy and publicity in high society circles surrounding these events that ensured the popularity and longevity of the art form as we today recognise it. Ballet plots have always hung together tenuously under the pretext of another costume change, another flight of exoticised fantasy: Why not take the Prince to Egypt so that he can ride on a camel past an oversized sphinx and be surrounded by Fushia-clad dancers? The Chinese have been subjected to plenty of racial stereotyping within European ballet plots; why not turn the tables in a witting parody? Guangdong’s ‘Swan Lake’ has set out to dazzle and provoke, and has done so intelligently.

The cleverness lies in the integration of an in-your-face circus sensibility within a central story of love and loss; this was engineered ingeniously, but never subtly. This lack of subtlety is perhaps the work’s Achilles heel for British audiences. As Baohua and Zhengdan perform their breathtaking feats of balance and delicate partnering, can the sense of poignancy (enhanced by the music for the traditional love duet) be truly imbibed whilst a tumbler in a luminous costume suddenly starts bungeeing across the back of the stage? The clunkiness of scene changes, rapid mood swings and juxtaposed choreography against the recorded-but-butchered score leaves no breathing space to allow for applause, absorption or build-up of dramatic tension, and is perhaps the production’s fatal downfall for ROH’s ascetic balletomanes. For me, Odile [name of artist] was the only character who conveyed an emotionally laden interpretation. The episodes involving the four cygnets danced by men in drag fell a little short of parody and were more of a grotesque travestising (as opposed to the Trocoderos’ successful ‘transvestising’), and the only heart-felt laugh raised by this quartet was when they lifted their feather-lined skirts over their heads, made beaks with their hands and strutted off stage like a row of Emus.

From their military roots at home in Guangzhou in mainland China 120km from Hong Kong, there underlies within Guangdong Military Acrobatic Troupe a steely die-hard display of absolute mind-over-body extremism and unified co-operation. Human rights may not be a strong point in favour of the Chinese right now, but this sumptuous show of talent portends that “The Chinese are a remarkable people…When they areworld dominant, things won’t be so bad” (Germaine Greer on Newsnight Review, broadcast on BBC2 Friday 1st August 2008, 23:30hrs). World domination may not be immediately imminent, but we should certainly look out for large-scale cultural production from China, and a big presence in the arts and film industries coming soon. Even those who say they ‘don’t like’ this production and argue against it on a fundamental level, cannot deny it has been done exquisitely well.

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