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National Ballet of China at Kennedy Center


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The three-day run at the Eisenhower Theater as part of the Kennedy Center's "China: Art of a Nation" festival began last night. The generous program to be performed through tomorrow night includes the first two scenes of the Mao-era ballet Red Detachment of Women, Act II of Swan Lake and the contemporary neo-classical Yellow River.

The troupe has performed Swan A2 and Yellow River in DC, on past tours...but I believe that last night was DC's first look at Red Detachment, a historical curiosity that packed a punch, to say the least. It's not everyday that our nation's capital sees a ballerina caressing the hammer & sickle! Seriously, the dances with sabres and rifles were electrifying.

Swan was exquisite and more lyrical/poetic -- less rigidly precise -- than in the past (1985 at the KennCen's Opera House), although the four Cygnets still perform as a perfect drill team (as it should be for this one dance). The corps de ballet moves as one. Remember, this troupe has some of the most gorgeously-trained dancers on earth; i.e., most principals, soloists and choryphees have won top medals at the big IBCs (Varna, Moscow, Jackson, Paris, etc.). Last night's Odette, Wang Qimin, was one of the gold medalists during my visit to the Moscow IBC 10 years ago; Wan has definitely fulfilled her early promises.

Yellow River was, if anything, even more explosive and acrobatic than what I recall seeing in 2005. It's a tour de force! The standing-room-only audience rewarded the company with huge applause & loud bravos.

Did anyone else from BalletAlert attend?

TIP: If you are planning to attend tonight's 8pm performance, you might wish to go two hours early, to catch the *free* Millenium Stage appearance of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet @ 6pm, also watchable online. :)

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Very brief note to say that I also attended the 3rd and final performance of the run this past Saturday. The works and principals were the same but this time I spotted a "hidden treasure" among the demi-soloists: gorgeous 19-yr-old Cao Shuci -- winner of the sr. ladies gold medal in last year's USA Int'l Ballet Competition (Jackson, MS) -- danced one of the two demi-solo girls in Yellow River, a ballet that turned out to be The Mega-Hit of the run, with instant stand ovations from the wildly-cheering Kennedy Center audience.

NYC had the ocean this past weekend; DC had the river! :)

I says something that a gem as bright as Cao Shuci is "only" a soloist in this company that is jam-packed with award-winning talent. I am so grateful for this brief tour and am looking forward to future visits from the National Ballet of China.

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Thanks for the review, Natalia.

Not wanting to go off the topic for too long here, I just want to mention that I have never seen the Red Detachment of Women live on stage but I have read about this since I was very young, because my dad had this exact book on his book shelf, and I was always flipping through the pages. Without knowing the political history of the ballet, I sort of guessed the story line was about "good vs. evil" typical Chinese propaganda from that era, but I kept reading it 'cos there were (colored!) pictures of ballet dancers with pointe shoes. The book talked about all the stage settings that were used, all the characters, the dancers, the movements (with illustrations) of a certain characters. It went in depth and length on helping readers to understand the ballet and the meaning behind it.

By the way, I looked up Cao Shuci on Youtube, she's indeed very nice!

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Thanks, little-junkie. That's quite a book you have!

While I'm grateful for the 40 minutes of the ballet (2 scenes) that we saw in DC, I'd love to see the entire ballet live some day. I have the famous film of the ballet that came out ca-1970, as it was being sold in Beijing when I visited China 10 yrs ago. There is an entr'acte between the last two scenes in which the entire corps de ballet jetes across the proscenium curtain in mind-blowing fashion. I;m afraid that the 'finale' may not be 'politcally correct' for certain audience members.

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