Hamlet en pointe

Updated: 2013-11-22 02:25

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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Hamlet en pointe

Wang Yuanyuan's new ballet production narrates through the inner self of Hamlet, who struggles between revenge and love. Photos provided to China Daily

Wang tells the story through the eyes and inner world of the melancholy prince, who struggles with the dramas of power, family, revenge and love.

"I took away all the extraneous parts and came more to the essence of what I was trying to focus on the character, Hamlet. All other characters function as a mirror to him, reflecting how he is eager to have revenge, how he wants to take power, how he is hesitant to love, and how he loses himself," says Wang.

According to Han Jiang, the scriptwriter, producer and lighting director of Beijing Dance Theater, he initially gave Wang eight versions of a script, each telling the story of Hamlet from a different perspective.

"It's difficult to turn such a classical story into a ballet. Our imagination for the story is unlimited," Han says.

Once Wang decided on the script — a version emphasizing physical power and close to the original story of Hamlet, she called Feng, who was eager to be the artistic supervisor for the production.

"One day I took several drafts of the stage design to his studio, and he chose one with a simple but strong visual impact," says Wang. "I was very happy because we think along the same lines."

The plan picked up by Feng was designed by Tan Shaoyuan. On a black backdrop, white color gradually concentrates into one point and finally disappears, which Tan describes as desperate and ruthless, like "a black hole absorbing all the light into darkness".

Instead of using the whole version of Tan Dun's music, Wang invited young Chinese composer Wang Peng to join in. Tan's music, she says, was for those dance pieces in Feng's film and she wanted music for the ballet that was coherent and complete.

The production is a celebration of the Beijing Dance Theater's fifth anniversary.

Wang describes the choreography for Hamlet as her most exhausting and torturous work ever, the first time she has told a story through a man's perspective.

"I pretended to be Hamlet and then I thought about how to deal with hatred and how to deal with women," she says. "Every day I had complicated emotions in my head, which was an energy-consuming process but it's also enjoyable."

Born and raised in Beijing, Wang studied choreography at the Beijing Dance Academy and later was trained at the California Institute of the Arts' school of dance in Los Angeles. In 1998, she was named resident choreographer for the National Ballet of China. The following year she premiered The Butterfly Lovers at the Great Hall of the People for the 40th anniversary of the founding of the National Ballet of China, as well as a Chinese version of The Nutcracker.

Beijing Dance Theater is a private troupe and has no financial support from the government. Wang was concerned about the money in the early years. But now, as they tour more than 20 countries every year, Wang worries less about money but hopes to attract domestic audiences.

"Hamlet will be a good start since the story is familiar to audiences both in China and abroad," she says. "I feel proud to show worldwide audiences how a contemporary ballet dance troupe from China depicts a classic from the West. I also care about what the Chinese audiences think of it."