A season to dance


The National Ballet of China will entertain audiences with a variety of shows at the fifth China International Ballet Season in Beijing. Highlights include classic pieces Don Quixote (pictured) and La Sylphide.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for many sectors, including the dance community. Canceled shows and venue closures have left artists without an audience.

Before the pandemic, the National Ballet of China used to organize training sessions for its dancers with international ballet masters who visited the country to present workshops and do rehearsals of productions with them, according to Feng Ying, president of the dance company.

"We are coping with the new normal-keeping in touch with intentional ballet masters online," says Feng. "It's important for us to keep the communication going despite the challenges brought by the pandemic."

Feng, a former ballerina, recently announced that the fifth China International Ballet Season, a series of shows, will kick off on Nov 12 and run through Dec 26 at Tianqiao Theater in Beijing.

Though the theater just announced that the opening gala was canceled following a spike in reported COVID-19 cases, the schedule for other performances and events mostly remains unchanged.

"Dancers of the company have got regular online training from international ballet masters," says Feng.

One of the ballet pieces to be staged during the festival is the classic three-act ballet, Jewels, by choreographer George Balanchine.

In 2019, the National Ballet of China staged the ballet piece to celebrate the company's 60th anniversary.

Premiered in New York in 1967, Jewels was inspired by the artistry of jewelry designer Claude Arpels. With three sections-Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds, the ballet portrays the essence of each jewel accompanied by music from three different composers.

Diana White, former soloist with the New York City Ballet, was in Beijing in 2019 to work with the dancers of the National Ballet of China on the last section of the work, Diamonds. Since the pandemic, White has held online rehearsals with the Chinese dancers.

Another ballet master who helped the Chinese dancers via online classes is Reid Anderson, artistic director of the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany.


The National Ballet of China will entertain audiences with a variety of shows at the fifth China International Ballet Season in Beijing. Highlights include classic pieces Don Quixote(pictured) and La Sylphide.[Photo provided to China Daily]

From Dec 16 to 19, dancers of the National Ballet of China will perform the three-act Onegin, one of the world's greatest ballets based on Russian poet and playwright Alexander Pushkin's novel Eugene Onegin. Choreographed by John Cranko for the Stuttgart Ballet, the piece premiered in 1965.

In 2009, Anderson was in Beijing to train dancers of the National Ballet of China and the same year, the piece was performed at Tianqiao Theater.

Feng says: "It's true that online communication is challenging for dancers since there are many details, such as hand gestures and facial expressions, to deliver the emotions. But we try to overcome such difficulties."

Besides interpreting Western ballet pieces, the Chinese dancers will perform original Chinese ballet works during the coming event.

The company's original work Yimeng will be performed at Tianqiao Theater from Dec 9 to 10.

Telling stories with scenes adapted from real events, the ballet work is a tribute to residents of Yinan county in East China's Shandong province who supported Communist troops during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) and the War of Liberation (1946-49). It premiered in 2020 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

Inspiration and Glory, another original ballet by the company, will close the performance season, with shows on Dec 25 and 26. It tells stories based on four Chinese folk tales-Nyuwa Butian (Goddess Nyuwa Repairs the Sky), Jingwei Tianhai (Jingwei Trying to Fill Up the Sea), Yugong Yishan (Yugong Moves Away the Mountains) and Kuafu Zhuri (Kuafu Chasing the Sun)-which all exemplify the spirit of perseverance and dedication.

Composer Guan Xia, former president of the China National Symphony Orchestra, modified four of his early works for this ballet production, accompanied by the symphony orchestra of the National Ballet of China under the baton of conductor Zhang Yi.

The ballet pays tribute to those who made contributions to China's development over the past century.

Other performances during the Beijing event include Shanghai Ballet's version of The Lady of the Camellias on Nov 19 and 20; and Zhengzhou Song and Dance Theater's original dance drama, Shuiyue Luoshen (Nymph of the Luoshui River), on Nov 26 and 27.

Besides live shows, some ballet productions, including Stuttgart Ballet's Romeo and Juliet and the Royal Ballet's La Fille Mal Gardee, will be screened during the event at Tianqiao Theater, co-organizer of the China International Ballet Season.

According to Liu Jingwei, the theater's general manager, the event has been held every two years since 2013 and has attracted over 57 ballet companies from 27 countries and regions.

To involve the audience more in the event, amateur ballet dancers are encouraged to participate by performing at the theater.

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