A step in the right direction

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, April 12, 2022
Adjust font size:

In 2001, a 72-episode TV drama, Da Zhai Men (Grand Mansion Gate) premiered and dominated the ratings. Directed and written by Guo Baochang, it was about the story of the Beijing-based Bai family set during one of the most tumultuous periods in Chinese history, spanning from the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) until World War II.

Peking Opera was a major element used in the TV drama as the leading character, Bai Jingqi, is a big fan of the art form.

Li Jun, a dancer-choreographer of the National Ballet of China, was drawn to the TV drama and of all the roles portrayed in it, his favorite was Bai Yuting, the younger sister of Bai Jingqi, who is so obsessed about Peking Opera star Wan Xiaoju that she gets married to his photo. She spends her whole life in her dream of being with Wan until her death.

Bai Yuting was performed earlier by well-known Chinese actress Jiang Wenli and the role lingered in Li's head for years.

Li decided to adapt the story of Bai Yuting into a ballet piece titled Where to Pour All My Love? The piece will be premiered at Tianqiao Theater in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The 20-minute piece is part of the upcoming 12th ballet workshop of the National Ballet of China, which will gather 12 young choreographers to present 10 of their original dance works.

"Bai Yuting is tragic. Her love for the Peking Opera star is out of control and sad. I am keen on combining Peking Opera with ballet. Bai Yuting is the right role to exist in these two art forms," says Li, who graduated from the Beijing Dance Academy in 1999 and has performed leading roles in the National Ballet of China's productions, such as Swan Lake and Raise the Red Lantern.

To prepare for his work, Li visited Guo earlier this year. Guo, in his 80s, started to learn Peking Opera along with martial arts at the age of 5. He recalls watching Peking Opera pieces and skipping school to watch shows. Performing and watching Peking Opera has been a major part of Guo's life.

"He taught me how to enjoy Peking Opera and within a short period of time, I watched lots of Peking Opera shows," says Li.

Li learned ballet from the age of 11 and he was totally new to Peking Opera, a 200-year-old art form that combines singing, dancing, acrobatics and martial arts.

"I only knew Peking Opera by looking at the costumes, makeup and stage sets. I didn't understand the lyrics since they are mostly performed in ancient Chinese language. Thanks to Guo, I started to appreciate its peerless beauty," says Li.

He also mentions that he once put on Peking Opera costumes when he performed in the ballet production of Raise the Red Lantern, directed by Zhang Yimou. Before putting on headwear, Li recalls that he had to tie a ribbon on his head very tightly to ensure its stability.

"It was very painful, which reminded of the ballet dancers performing on their pointe shoes. They look beautiful but also bear lots of pain," says Li. "Both of the art forms pursue extreme beauty, which requires years of practice."

Li has participated in the ballet workshop since 2010 when the project was launched. He says that he has experimented with various ideas, which allowed him to grow from a dancer to a choreographer. He plans to expand the piece Where to Pour All My Love? into a full-length ballet work.

Other new works to be staged during the event include Before the Next Move, choreographed by Sun Haifeng, which is inspired by chess, and Looking For My Soul Mate, choreographed by Su Yang, which is based on the ancient Chinese story of Yu Boya, who plays his guqin in the mountains, when a woodcutter, Zhong Ziqi, hears the music and understands exactly what Yu wants to express.

Farewell, My Free Bone is an original dance piece choreographed by Yan Mengxuan, a student of the dance school of the National Ballet of China. It is the first time that Yan is participating in the ballet workshop and the piece is based on her personal experience.

"This work was created during my recovery from the surgery to remove the free bone from the back of my ankle," says Yan, 14. "During recovery, I always looked forward to dancing, which gave me the idea of creating a piece."

Feng Ying, president of the National Ballet of China, says, "Every year, we look forward to seeing those young dancers and their original pieces during the workshop, which offers them an opportunity to fulfill their ideas onstage. The workshop allows them to try a wide range of themes and showcase their creativity.

"After 12 years, the workshop not only brings out new choreographers but also helps the company to discover talents in different fields, such as in video-making, visual design and stage design," Feng adds.

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter