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 Post subject: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2003 3:10 am 
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Ballet tour for Yimou's Red Lantern
Fromm the BBC website


Oscar-nominated director Zhang Yimou is taking a ballet based on his film Raise the Red Lantern to Europe.
The 1991 film, based on a novel by Zu Tong, brought Yimou and lead actress Gong Li world recognition because of its powerful story about a concubine.

Yimou took his vision of the film and transformed it into a ballet, performed by the National Ballet of China, and has since worked on a revised version.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2003 11:19 am 
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Location: London
Sadler’s Wells and Asia House present
Raise the Red Lantern
National Ballet of China
Sadler’s Wells Theatre
11 - 15 November at 7.30pm and Saturday matinee at 2.30pm
Tickets £10 – £40. Ticket Office 020 7863 8000 www.sadlerswells.com

National Ballet of China, the Beijing-based national ballet company brings its major production of Raise the Red Lantern to Sadler’s Wells in November. The ballet is based on Zhang Yimou’s 1991 award-winning film of the same name. National Ballet of China chief Zhao Ruheng invited the celebrated film director Zhang Yimou to create a Chinese ballet for the twenty-first century, which takes a fresh look at 1920s rural China.

Raise the Red Lantern focuses on a world of complicated emotions and female rivalry. This haunting tale focuses on the life of a beautiful concubine who is sold by her mother to an old man. She enters a stifling world of jealousy and resentment where three women compete for the raised red lanterns which signals they are favoured by their master. Her resolve to survive the conspiracies and challenge female subservience in Chinese culture creates an atmosphere of permanent intrigue.

This unconventional production breaks new ground for Western audiences. The ballet combines the conventions of Western ballet with Chinese iconography and elements of the Peking Opera.

Zhang Yimou is one of China’s leading directors. He began his career as a cinematographer and is famed for creating beautiful images to which his 1991 film and now his ballet pay testament. The aesthetic focus of the production has a clear cinematic element and is carefully balanced with the story and choreography. The ballerinas wear traditional Chinese dresses - striking cheongsams in vibrant colours. The set design is exquisite with the rich colours of the stage set complemented by impressive lighting techniques. When the red lanterns are raised the stage is breathtakingly bathed in red.

As suggested by the title, the colour red suffuses the production – symbolising sexual power, anger, passion and darkly the terrible, tragic end to this bitter tale.

Stefan Kosciuszko, Chief Executive of Asia House commented “This stylish production shows creative Chinese talent at its best. I would like to acknowledge the help of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in bringing this world class event to London.”

PRESS NIGHT: Tuesday 11 November, 7.30pm

For further press information, or to arrange interviews please contact Sally Partridge, Sadler’s Wells Press Officer, 020 7863 8113 or sally.partridge@sadlerswells.com

For further information on Asia House please contact Clare Frankenberg, Asia House Programme Coordinator, 020 7499 1287 or
Clare.frankenberg@asiahouse.co.uk

Pictures: Registered publications can download images from EPO ISDN Bulletin Board. Photographs available digitally via EPO Online 020 7968 1560 e: info@epo-online.com

National Ballet of China European Tour Schedule
8 October – 25 November 2003

8 – 12 October LYON, MAISON DE LA DANSE

14 October AVIGNON, OPERA-THEATRE D’AVIGNON

17 October NEVERS, MAISON DE LA CULTURE

21 October MONTPELLIER, LE CORUM

25 – 31 October ITALY tbc

4-5 November DIJON, AUDITORIUM

11-15 November LONDON, SADLER’S WELLS

18 November VICHY, OPERA DE VICHY

21-25 November PARIS, CHATELET

Notes to Editors

National Ballet of China founded in 1959, is China’s foremost ballet company. The company were last seen in the UK in 1986 and the performances of Raise the Red Lantern at Sadler’s Wells are the only UK dates in their European tour this autumn. The dancers of the National Ballet of China are all graduates of the Beijing Dance Academy. Study at the Academy involves 6-8 years of training. Under the direction of Zhao Ruheng the company are committed to addressing China’s cultural heritage in their work and to creating Chinese ballets for world audiences.

The celebrated yet controversial director Zhang Yimou, is well known for films of dazzling visual beauty. Raise the Red Lantern is his second stage venture. Yimou graduated from the Photography department of the Beijing Film Academy in 1982 and began his career as a cinematographer. He made his directorial debut in 1987 with Red Sorghum. In 1991 his film Raise the Red Lantern brought him and his lead actress Gong Li world recognition. For the ballet he took his vision of the film, slightly altered the storyline and transformed it into a ballet. The 1991 film is an adaptation of Su Tong’s novel and won a British Academy Award for best foreign film in 1992.

Zhao Ruheng (Company Director) has spent nearly her entire life with the National Ballet of China. In 1961 she became the youngest principal dancer with the National Ballet of China after graduating from the Beijing Dance Academy in the same year. She danced with the company for 11 years performing principal roles in Swan Lake, Le Corsaire and Giselle until a leg injury put an end to her career as a dancer. She was appointed as Executive Vice-Director in 1993 and was promoted to Director in the following year.

Wang Xinpeng (Choreographer) trained at the Beijing Dance Academy from 1985 to 1989 and then studied modern dance at the Folkwanghochschule in Essen, Germany from 1989 to 1990. He has created works for Hong Kong Ballet, Het National Ballet Amsterdam and Royal Ballet of Flanders as well as being a long-time associate of National Ballet of China. For Raise the Red Lantern he has collaborated with Zhang Yimou.

Qigang Chen (Composer) started his studies in music when the Cultural Revolution broke out in China. His father, a painter and calligrapher was deemed bourgeois and sent to a labour camp. The young Qiang Chen was kept in confinement and underwent ‘ideological re-education’. He entered the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in 1977 and in 1983 won a scholarship to study at the Ecole Normale de Musique and at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.

Asia House are co-presenting Raise the Red Lantern at Sadler’s Wells. Asia House is the only pan-Asian organisation in Britain promoting a greater understanding of the rich and varied cultural economies of Asia. Asia House runs a lively programme of over 100 events annually, covering economics, politics, visual and performing arts to literature, food, film and fashion.
‘Asia House will be the “must visit centre” for all who have an interest in obtaining, developing and imparting their contacts, knowledge and understanding of business, diplomatic and cultural interaction between Asia and Europe’.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2003 11:46 am 
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Bring on the dancing concubines
The ballet of the classic film Raise the Red Lantern is full of Eastern and Western promise
By Charlotte Cripps for The Independent

"I tried not to watch the film again, so as not to be influenced by the film's music as I composed music for the ballet," says Qigang Chen, the composer of the score for the National Ballet of China's Raise the Red Lantern, an adaptation of Zhang Yimou's 1992 Academy Award-nominated film. It's the Twenties-set tale of a beautiful girl in rural China who is sold by her mother to a wealthy man, and who then must compete with her rival concubines for the raised red lantern which nightly signals her master's favour.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2003 3:37 am 
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Raise the Red Lantern, National Ballet of China
Chinese ballet is big on design but too short on theatrical power
By Zoë Anderson for The Independent

Raise the Red Lantern is the ballet of the movie. By the end of the evening, we've seen a lot of self-consciously beautiful stage pictures but nothing to explain why Zhang Yimou wanted to turn his 1994 film into a dance.

Zhang, one of China's most celebrated directors, has recently moved into stage direction on a grand scale. The National Ballet of China's production involves 69 musicians, 100 dancers, a stageful of costume changes, silk and paper screens and lots of laquer and gold.

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***************************

Icy film fired into vibrant new life
By Debra Craine for The Times


FOR its first visit to London in 17 years, the National Ballet of China has brought one of the most high-profile cultural projects that country has seen in years. It’s a full-length ballet based on the famous 1991 Chinese film Raise the Red Lantern, a tale of rival concubines, forbidden romance and tragic consequences.

Like the film (which was originally banned), the ballet has proved highly controversial at home. Partly because of its subject-matter — feudalism and the oppression of women — partly because it blends classical ballet with Peking Opera, and partly because it is staged by the film-maker himself, Zhang Yimou.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2003 4:09 am 
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From The FT.

Quote:
We are a long way from The Red Detachment of Women with its soaring lines of be-rifled soldierettes, bayadères of the revolutionary message. The National Ballet of China, in a welcome return to London, brought Raise the Red Lantern, which is not about Communist illumination but sexual jealousy.
Chinese ballet has latterly come a long way, and what we saw was a fascinating step on the road to a more modern image. I have long believed that out of China will come an influential identity for classic ballet, born of the dancers' beautiful physiques and dedication, and of the traditions of Chinese theatre.

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And from The Times.

Quote:
In a country with more than a billion people and a work ethic where obedience and precision are paramount, China's national ballet company is almost bound to be one of exquisite beauty and impressive discipline. Selection for the rigours of classical ballet must be so easy.

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<small>[ 13 November 2003, 05:14 AM: Message edited by: Joanne ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2003 9:48 am 
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What is flame red against petrol blue? Definitely a profound contrast, definitely a powerful contrast. These two colours meet at the beginning of 'Rise the Red Lantern', the rich and innovative National Ballet of China's latest work. The traditional Chinese theatre meets with Western born ballet in this adaptation of Zhang Yimou's film. It is the story of a concubine condemned to death for having betrayed her master. It is a love story, a story of jelousy between women nad of tradition suffocating the female sex.

And colours, some strong symbolic colours emerge along with the dancers' quality of movement and their elegance. The two other master's wives are represented by two colours, lime green for one nad orange for the other. The third wike (and protagonist) is dressed in red that same flame red that shines through the big red lanterns. In addition to that, the two protagonists' frequent pas de deux represent a kind of poetic legacy throughout this dramatic story. One movement recurs and that is the opening in second position of the third wife's legs while her partner, the theatre actor and her secret lover, holds her from her shoulders. She flies with her legs surfing the stage and occasionally touching her pointed shoes (beautiful red shoes!) on to the floor. It is a very sweet image which reinforces her will to fly away in spite (or because) her doomed destiny.

I was really overtaken by the stage design by Zeng Li, so full of successful ways of suggesting the development of the story rather than its literal translation. Again the opening catches the eyes, especially when an old wizardlike man enters to switch on the red lanterns, symbol of control and possession. The lanterns would be lightded at the house of the chosen wife for the master to go and spend the night with her.

In the film as well as the ballet, the lanterns play a decisive symbolic role. In the ballet in particular they are torn and broken by the wife in orange, the one who reveals the third wife's affair to the master, thus condemning the heppy couple and herself to death.

What I found was maybe lacking was a more articulate approachto the choreography of the corp de ballet. I did enjoy the traditional element with a section presenting a segment from a traditional Chinese Theatrical piece. That reminded me of another film 'Farewell, my concubine' (I am not sure whether that is the actual xorrect title but it was featuring the story of two actors playing exactly that theatrical piece). On the overall I think it was a great performance also with regard to the costumes and their effect on stage, colourwise and texturewise. In particular there is a bit where the two lovers dance a beautiful pas de peux together with a dress. He wears half of it and offers the other half to her and the keep on exchanging it.

Last but not least the relation, or better non-relation to the film, where there is no love story at all and where the rivalry between the four (not three) wives drives the protagonist to madness. Both enchanting in their own way, the film with its silences, the labyrinthic overview of the master's houses and Gong Li extraordinary interpretation, the ballet with its chromatic drive, the excellent scenography and the dancers' featherly movement quality!

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2003 2:43 am 
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Rosella - thanks for your review. A bad week at work meant that I didn't get there so your thoughts were appreciated.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2003 3:34 pm 
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Pleasure Emma, I have also found out where did they perform in Italy, it was at the Teatro Comunale di Modena, where they opened the Theatre 2003-2004 Ballet Season.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2003 9:57 am 
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was it the same programme in Modena?


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2003 11:35 am 
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Madame Mao would hate it
In its gory glory, Raise the Red Lantern is a brutal portrait of China's recent history. By Jann Parry for The Observer
Parallel Passions: Mavin Khoo Dance
Linbury Studio Theatre, London WC2
Red paper lanterns dangle down the open-plan foyer of Sadler's Wells, welcoming audiences to a blood-stained ballet of sex and death. For its first London visit in 17 years, the National Ballet of China brought Raise the Red Lantern, adapted for the stage by Zhang Yimou from his 1991 film of the same name.
The spectacular production is his first involvement with ballet. His cinematic approach is evident in the richness of the visual imagery, from the parade of lanterns at the start to the snow falling on corpses at the end. Even the music, composed by Chen Qigang in a fusion of Western and traditional Chinese styles, played live by an orchestra of 70 musicians, sounds like a film score.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2003 11:45 am 
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A tale from moving pictures
East meets west in epic style in the National Ballet of China’s bold adaptation of a once banned film, says David Dougill in The Sunday Times.

The glass frontage of Sadler’s Wells theatre was vividly aglow last week with a forest of red paper lanterns for the National Ballet of China’s visit with its big new production, Raise the Red Lantern, and it’s nice to learn that these delightful decorations will stay in place until after Christmas, bringing a touch of magic to Rosebery Avenue.

The stage was vivid, too, with its bright colours, spectacle and striking theatrical effects; and for the ensemble numbers it looked packed with dancers — this must be the largest company to have appeared at the Wells — just as the orchestra pit was packed with musicians.


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<small>[ 17 November 2003, 02:15 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 2:32 am 
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Another review from The Independent.

Quote:
This is the ballet of the movie. By the end of the evening, we've seen a lot of self-consciously beautiful stage pictures, but nothing to explain why Zhang Yimou wanted to turn his 1991 film, also entitled Raise the Red Lantern, into a dance.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 6:57 am 
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Dear Emma, so is written in an Italian dance magazine, I do think it was the same ballet (in Italian it is transleted 'Lanterne Rosse'), unfortunately I could not go to see it in person.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of China
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 9:55 am 
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In China red is considered the colour of good fortune, but in “Raise the red Lantern” red becomes the symbol of servitude when it indicates the dubious “honour” accorded to the woman chosen to spend the night in her master’s bed when a red lantern is positioned outside her door.

Having seen and admired the film of the same name, I have to report that the ballet is entirely different and only the theme of female subjugation remains. Although the film was set in the 1920’s, the ballet offers no clues as to when the tragic events on stage take place, in fact the savagery that befalls the unfortunate lovers and the traitorous second wife could easily be assumed to be happening in some distant medieval period. The story in essence is of a young girl sold into marriage against her will, whose enduring love for a young actor is discovered by one of her co-wives. All three are slaughtered by the jealous husband/master.

If there is no sense of time in this ballet there is a wonderful sense of place as walls of patterned screens in the colours of Chinese lacquer wonderfully evoke the claustrophobic atmosphere of a Chinese household. The sets by Jérôme Kaplan become an integral part of the action as the Third Wife is raped beneath a red silk floor cloth, hanging lanterns are ripped apart in a dance of anger and frustration and the murder of the three victims is depicted by blood–soaked clubs slammed against the backcloth like the bloody weal’s on the backs of the three being tortured to death.

Clearly there is much creative talent within this company and the packed house and wholehearted applause were well deserved. The two leading dancers on Thursday evening were Wang Qimin and Meng Ningning as the Third and Second Wives respectively. Both were elegant expressive dancers, able to engage the audience’s sympathies. As the Third Wife’s lover Li Jun was suitably handsome and romantic and Chen Zhiqing as the Master was a suitably unpleasant piece of work. The music by Chen Qigang was an intriguing fusion of east and west played partly on traditional Chinese instruments.

As the ballet was credited with both a producer (Zhang Yimou) and choreographer (Wang Xinpeng), it’s impossible to know who was responsible for what, but the actual steps were very conventional and the pas de deux for the dying lovers in their tattered costumes looked rather uncomfortably like Manon and des Grieux in the swamps of Louisiana. Zhang Yimou actually directed the film of “Raise the Red Lantern” too, so presumably he approved the changes to the story line to make the piece more suitable for dance. One of the most beautiful images in a film that was full of gorgeous imagery was the scene in which the young wife is taken to the secret pavilion on the roof of the house where she is incarcerated and left to freeze or starve to death. A place where you imagine many other women over the years have shared her fate. It should be a moment of horror, but shot against a winter landscape and through a soft fall of snow it becomes hauntingly lovely. Zhang Yimou is clearly not someone to let a good idea go to waste and the ballet ends with the dead bodies slowly covered by a gentle sprinkling of snow.


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