Chinese dancers to play lead roles in Don Quixote

Updated: 2015-01-16 06:56

By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Chinese dancers to play lead roles in <EM>Don Quixote</EM>
Chinese dancers Ma Xiaodong, left, and Wang Ye

The Richmond Ballet in Virginia will stage Don Quixote next month with two principal dancers from the National Ballet of China.

Wang Ye and Ma Xiaodong are scheduled to perform the ballet's lead role in Nicolas Beriozoff's Don Quixote from Feb 20-22 at the Carpenter Theater in the CenterStage located in the city center, the Richmond Ballet announced on Thursday.

Wang and Ma's guest artist appearance in Richmond is the first stop in Richmond Ballet's year-long Road to China cultural exchange program that will carry the company through to a tour of China in May of this year, according to the Richmond Ballet. Both Wang and Ma are expected to arrive in Richmond early next month.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe first announced the upcoming trip to China last March to perform at the 15th annual "Meet in Beijing" Arts festival in Beijing.

It will mark the ballet's first trip to Asia and its second international tour, following its successful run at the Royal Opera House in London in June 2012.

Kate Crowder, public relations manager of the Richmond Ballet, told China Daily on Thursday that the preparation for the trip is coming along very well.

"We are most excited, and especially since Don Quixote signals the first step along our Road to China, the trip is feeling closer than ever," she said. "We are thrilled to be welcoming Wang Ye and Ma Xiaodong soon too."

The Richmond Ballet, a leading mid-size ballet company in the US, has since last year been conducting a year-long Road to China program, which celebrates Chinese culture in the US throughout 2014-2015, a season that marks the company's 30th anniversary.

China has also been featured in the ballet's community outreach program, known as Minds in Motion, in both Richmond and Charlottesville.

The Richmond Ballet also plans a gala on Feb 28 to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year, as well as a series of events to encourage diverse communities across Virginia to become more engaged in movement and dance.

Richmond Ballet Artistic Director Stoner Winslett and Managing Director Brett Bonda visited China last July to present the ballet's Road to China and Beyond initiative during the fifth annual US-China High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange in Beijing, led on both sides respectively by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong.

In Beijing, Winslett visited local dance school and the National Center for the Performing Arts, where Richmond Ballet will perform in May.

Richmond Ballet last performed Don Quixote in Feb 2007. Live music this time will be performed by the Richmond Symphony.

"Don Quixote is one of ballets that is closest to my heart," said Winslett. "It is very special to me because we mounted it in our first season as a professional company in 1985 and because Nicolas Beriozoff himself came to stage his version here in Richmond."

"Don Quixote is popular in Russia, in England, in New York, in China and, of course, we have a truly classic version of Don Quixote here in Richmond as well," Winslett said.

The book was first introduced into China in 1918 by famous writer Lu Xun and his brother Zhou Zuoren. The story has long been included in middle-school Chinese language textbooks in China.

"Everybody loves stories about Spain, and the production is full of Spanish dancing, Spanish music, and Spanish bravura. There's comedy, there's a beautiful forest white scene, there are gypsies; there's not one thing that Don Quixote doesn't have. Of course, at its heart, it is a love story as seen through the eyes of a dreamer, which brings a tremendous liveliness to this ballet. It's great for audiences of all ages and interests," Winslett said.

Known across the globe for its tremendous bravura dancing infused with high-energy Spanish flair, the ballet Don Quixote was inspired by the Cervantes' 1605 novel of the same name, which tells of the adventures and misadventures of the aging, yet forever valiant knight, Don Quixote, the eternal dreamer, and his faithful squire Sancho Panza.