NZ ballet company stakes reputation on China stage

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New Zealand's national ballet troupe is seeking to build its international reputation when opens its international premiere of Giselle in China next week.

Ballet "Giselle" by the Royal New Zealand Ballet [File photo]

The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) had found the invitation to perform the production at a series of prestigious Chinese venues including Beijing's National Center for the Performing Arts too good to turn down, managing director Amanda Skoog told Xinhua.

"We're building our international reputation and the thing that tipped it in China's favor this year was the National Center for the Performing Arts invited us," Skoog said in a phone interview Wednesday.

"Dance is an international language and any company worth its salt must go offshore if you want to be assessed internationally, you must go offshore."

The company would be taking 34 dancers, including Chinese-born principal male dancer Qi Huan, who graduated from the Beijing Dance Academy in 2000 and joined the RNZB in 2005.

In 2003 and 2004, Qi taught at the academy alongside former RNZB principal dancer Ou Lu.

"There are close ties between the New Zealand and China and we get a lot of very good Chinese dancers interested in joining us," said Skoog.

Previous Chinese tours the first in 2007 and the second and most recent in 2009 had shown Chinese audiences had more traditional preferences than Western audiences.

"They're very different, but they love Western art forms and we 've always been received very well there they love it," said Skoog.

The company would open the production in Suzhou on April 9, before moving on to Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin and Guangzhou to stage a total of nine performances over three weeks.

Skoog said the Chinese venues had specifically asked for Giselle, based on the high reputation of RNZB artistic director and co-choreographer Ethan Stiefel.

"If it's well received in Beijing, then the company would certainly be invited back again," she said.

"Dance companies should be seen on the international stage and it's really important for our growth and our reputation that we do this. These are fantastic venues."

The tour will also feature in a New Zealand television series, Secret Lives of Dancers.

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