Last Saturday I was fortunate enough to see the Shanghai Ballet perform on their US tour. I was hoping to write a review but as I've been completely and utterly preoccupied lately, I thought I'd be better off sharing a few informal tid bits now.
The Shanghai Ballet has been touring the Mid-Atlantic (Washington D.C./Virginia) area as of late and will continue to move further south into Atlanta for their First Glance Atlanta Festival in mid October. The company has been introducing US audiences to its 1965 classic "The White Haired Girl". This full length ballet (eight scenes plus a prologue) was first staged in 1965 and has since been performed over 1500 times; so you might say its their "swan song" ( bad pun intended
Another interesting aspect of the ballet is how the "White Haired Girl" (or Xi'er) transistions are dealt with. During the first four scenes the role of Xi'er was danced by a beautiful ballerina, Ji Pingping. After Xi'er dissapears into the wilderness her hair turns from black to grey to white. As her hair turns grey, a different dancer replaces the black haired Xi'er. The grey haired Xi'er dances a short variation and then another dancer, with white hair, replaces the grey haired Xi'er. The white haired Xi'er dances the remainder of the ballet.
Zhang Weiying danced the role of the "White Haired Girl" and she began with a rather unnerving occurrence, she fell (quite hard) within the first thirty seconds of her opening variation. While falling on stage is always disconcerting for the dancer, her recovery was so speedy (perhaps the fastest recovery I've ever seen!), the audience didn't even seem to notice. Despite her opening mishap, Zhang Weiying gave an incredible performance. She had a remarkable grasp of the emotional investment required of each scene. She never seemed to "over act" yet Zhang brought an appropriate amount of drama to some of the most climatic scenes in the wilderness. Aside from the prologue, the wilderness scenes were my favorite. During this time, the White Haired Haired Girl is onstage alone for a long duration , which is not only a physical challenge but a deep exploration of the psyche as well.
I was equally impressed with the Shanghai Ballet's small but capable corps de ballet. The women in the corps really stood out for their technical capabilities and expressive presence.
Other interesting aspects of the performance included the use of Chinese folk dance and martial arts. Though not a major component of the production, these elements were worked into the ballet at various points and added to the ballet's distinct Chinese identity. The ballet was accompanied by both traditional Chinese instrumental music and a vocal score.
I do recommend looking into the Shanghai Ballet's touring schedule. Seeing "The White Haired Girl " was a unique and enjoyable experience.
I apologize for my lack of formalities but I thought it'd be nice to address the company's presence ( at the very least), since I don't have the time to write a proper review.