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Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe - Swan Lake - Lowry 02/08/2008

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I attended a performance of the Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe's Swan Lake at the Lowry this afternoon. I've got to say from the outset that this work is tremendous fun and I came out feeling really uplifted.

OK, it's not Swan Lake as we know it and the music is mangled but at the end of the day it really didn't matter at all!

The performance starts with a prologue of a Princess being turned into a Swan by a wicked black Eagle (the set for this short section is stunning and would grace any conventional production of Swan Lake). The next scene has shifted to the court of the Prince. The Prince is asleep and dreams of a beautiful Swan Princess. When he wakes up he sets off to find her. This allows for various acrobatic set pieces as he proceeds on his journey around the world.

The end of this act roughly equates to the White Act and is where the Prince meets the Swan Princess. The swans are on roller-skates and are surprisingly effective. The cygnets are portrayed in two ways. There are four small men in drag who provide some comedy relief at various points. The dance of the cygnets is performed by frogs and they are worth the entrance money alone!

Act 2 starts with the Prince being duped by a black swan, realising he has been tricked and ends with him dashing off to try and find his true love (equating to act 4).

What I liked about the two white acts and the "black pdd" is that they start off with small sections of the Petipa/Ivanov choreography before the performers move on to more acrobatic feats.

All the performers are absolutely terrific and all apart from the Prince and Swan Princess have a number of roles. I especially liked the sequence with the hat juggling. Some of the "acts" are quite mind-boggling and the audience cheered throughout.

Wu Zhengdan was beautiful and tragic as the Swan Princess. She had the most beautiful and elegant arms and hands. I could well imagine that, if her life had taken a different direction, she could have been a ballerina gracing all the world's best stages. Wei Baohua, as the Prince, has the stature of the strong man at the bottom of a tower of acrobats but he was very elegant, again with beautiful hands and arms.

I would say again that this performance was tremendous fun - a really good afternoon's entertainment. The rest of the audience obviously agreed with me - as well as cheering throughout we gave a standing ovation at the end. The company seemed well chuffed with the very enthusiastic reception.

I would highly recommend this production for its entertainment value and for the obvious joy of the performers as well as their acrobatic talents.

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Thank you for that long and detailed report. I've never seen the troupe but I hear they're terrific. Has anyone else seen the show (or the Guangdong trouple in another performance)?

I believe you can find it on youtube--portions rather. It is pretty easy to find. And incredibly impressive of its kind.

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I've just come back from their first night in London and they were brilliant - I didn't think it was possible to hit some of the balances Wu hit, much less balancing on pointe on Wen's head, but there you go. My heart was just racing throughout. Swan Lake it is not, but it is probably one of the best nights out I had in ages.

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I've just been looking at the photographs (which are stunning). Where the Swan Princess is on the Prince's head, the photograph has been taken before she is fully in position because he does actually remove his hands.

Although not clear, this manoeuvre, is achieved partly because the Prince wears a hat (that looks like a black pudding basin) which obviously provides a better platform. What was totally mind boggling was that she then rotated on his head while en arabesque! I found it incredible to believe that anyone has this amount of control and such perfect balance to achieve this.

Judging by reviews and comments from London, even the jaded Capital audiences have been won over by this company.

I think they have toured the UK before, more conventionally, as the Chinese State Circus. I saw them at the Liverpool Empire a couple of years ago and enjoyed them so much that I went to the Lowry a couple of weeks later to see them again.

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