Chinese Ballet Raises the Red Lantern in Europe
2003-11-1 21:32:09
White has long been considered the sole color of Ballet. To this neat, peaceful scene is now added exciting Chinese red. The National Ballet of China is touring Europe, bringing along their latest production Raise the Red Lantern. Adapted from the acclaimed movie of the same name by Zhang Yimou, this lavish production witnesses a unique fusion of western and Chinese art. Is it a big step to develop China's indigenous ballet, and will foreigners like it? Wang Jing takes a look.

China Melody

Music from the Chinese Ballet

This brisk and lighthearted melody is from the first Chinese stage ballet, Beautiful Mermaid, created in 1959. Its two composers, Wu Zuqiang and Du Mingxin, have the shared background of having studied music in the Soviet Union during the 1950s. We can easily detect the western musical elements and styles in this work, which was the first experiment in Chinese artists creating their own ballet.

Following Beautiful Mermaid, many Chinese musicians and artists joined in the experimentation that was the creation of Chinese ballet. It was not until five years later when The Red Detachment of Women was premiered in 1964 in Beijing that these efforts yielded a breakthrough. Strictly speaking, it is the first, and the foremost, successful large-scale Chinese ballet to boast a strong Chinese flavor and style.

Also composed by Wu Zuqiang and Du Mingxin, as well as some other musicians, The Red Detachment of Women was adapted from a movie of the same title. The story comes from the 1930s in China's southernmost Hainan Island. Wu Qionghua, the female lead, flees her home and joins the local Red Army troop, gradually becoming an outstanding soldier with the Red Detachment of Women.

Since its birth, the ballet has been highly acclaimed for its moving and tragic plot, magnificent stage design, and graceful choreography. Its music, undoubtedly, also contributes a lot to the ballet's success and popularity. Let's enjoy an extract.

Another Chinese ballet classic, The White Haired Girl, made its debut only one year after The Red Detachment of Women. Composed by Yan Jinxuan, it was first performed by the Shanghai Ballet Theatre. Adapted from an opera of the same title, it tells a story about a girl who couldn't stand the insults of her landlord and hided herself deep in the mountains, her hair turning white. Finally the girl is saved by the Eighth Route Army and is reunited with her lover.


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