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Shanghai Ballet premiere of La Valse


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As promised, here is a belated review of last week’s performance. It will be a summary of my impression of both performances on August 30 and 31.

The program opened with world premiere of a PDD choreographed by ex-NYCB dancer Edwaard Liang commissioned by Shanghai Ballet. Two Principal Dancers in pale color dresses danced to slow movement from Tschaikovsky piano concerto. They are the best dancers in the company. Female dancer Fan Xiaofeng has guested one year in Australian Ballet in 2004-5 and done quite lot of Balanchine there. I especially like the two consecutive symmetrical arabesques where Xiaofeng facing side stage while Sun Shenyi stood behind her, facing inside and holding her raised leg.

This is followed by three small pieces. A solo danced by newly promoted male Principal Wu Husheng by Chinese choreographer Wang Yuanyuan. Yuanyuan did most of choreography in Raised the Red Lantern from National Ballet of China. Then comes excerpt from a modern piece again by Yuanyuan. This piece was premiered in 2005 along with Shanghai Ballet’s premiere of Serenade. Next comes another solo by Wu Husheng choreographed by Bertrand d’At. Wu danced this solo during New York Ballet Competition in June and got silver medal. (No gold is awarded this year).

After intermission is Serenade. The dancing overall is pretty good. The lighting is always the problem. They seem to unable to get the blue lighting right like NYCB. The original cast for Angel girl from two years ago was injured. The new girl has problem doing the two arabesque turns while her leg was held by the boy. One of the best poses I have seen is performed by Maris Kowroski. I think that photo can be found on NYCB website.

I am very happy for the China premiere of La Valse. As mentioned in one of newspaper interview by Artistic Director, it’s not very typical Balanchine. I have not seen this piece for many years. So it’s almost like discovering a new piece. When the curtain went up showing 3 girls on stage, a light wave of applause came from the audience. This is pretty rare in China. Chinese audience is not famous for our applauses. The dimly-lit backdrop and the poses by the girls must have impressed the audiences. The 3 girls are very graceful in their arm and hand gestures. I do not remember this part at all. It’s quite impressive. Xiaofeng danced the girl in white on opening night while another Principal did second night. Husheng did male lead for both nights. Chinese dancers are not used to doing waltz. But overall it’s a very good performance with only two and half week’s rehearsals (including learning the new pieces as well touch up Serenade too).

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I'd also like to add my thanks, jeff-sh. We are accustomed to seeing Chinese ballet dancers performing in western companies, so it's fascinating to learn about how western ballets are received by dances and audiences in China itself. I hope you'll be able to post something about the reviews to add to your own excellent comments.

Chinese dancers are not used to doing waltz.
This made me wonder whether the waltz form in general -- and Ravel's waltzes in particular -- is familiar to the average music-loving audience member. We in the west are used to bopping along in "one-two-three." Movement to it seems natural. It's hard to imagine what the experience of La Valse would be like if waltzing were either unfamiliar or exotic.
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I hope you'll be able to post something about the reviews to add to your own excellent comments.

I am afraid that Chinese media does not normally do performance reviews. They only do preview to help selling tickets. I will try to get some of my more articulated friends to add something.

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