Red Dress at Lincoln Center

Updated: 2014-03-07 13:21

By Jack Freifelder in New York (China Daily USA)

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Red Dress at Lincoln Center

From left: Chen Jiaqiang, director of Ningbo Bureau of Culture, Radio & TV, Press & Publication; Zhang Songcai, deputy director of Ningbo Cultural Bureau; and Song Guanlin, secretary of the Party Committee of China Arts and Entertainment Group, celebrate the opening of The Red Dress at New York's Lincoln Center on Thursday. The Chinese National Award-winning dance drama will run through March 9. Zhang Yuwei / China Daily

The Chinese National Award-winning dance drama The Red Dress premiered Thursday at the David H. Koch Theater in New York's Lincoln Center, marking the first time the China Ningbo Performance and Arts Group (China Ningbo) has put on a show in the United States.

Wang Xiaoying, artistic director of The Red Dress and vice-president of the National Theatre of China (NTC), said the chance to work with Lincoln Center in New York City is a key opportunity to "share this production with other cultures".

"New York City is a place full of different cultures," Wang said through a translator in a Thursday interview with China Daily. "We wanted to choose a place where we could get a high-level audience, and New York is one of the best centers for performing arts."

The Red Dress, which features a company of close to 50 dancers, tells the love story of a young man and woman from two rich families in southern China.

The two main characters, Yue'er and A'yong - played by Cheng Lin and Zeng Ming, respectively - have been sweethearts since their youth, but external circumstances drive them apart. A promise of marriage makes Yue'er the bride-to-be, but she must wait for many years before she achieves her dream of wearing a red wedding dress.

China Ningbo, which boasts a company of more than 300, mainly focuses its works on the features of southern China and the characteristics of Ningbo as a city, according to a press release.

The show - which is presented by the China Arts and Entertainment Group (CAEG), a subsidiary of China's Ministry of Culture - runs from March 6-9.

CAEG annually stages more than 5,000 shows, including exhibitions and cultural activities in a variety of cities and countries around the globe.

This engagement with the Lincoln Center is the third production set up between CAEG and the David H Koch Theater.

Song Guanlin, vice-president of CAEG, said though The Red Dress is influenced by classical performance art, it is much more focused on the emotional aspect of its characters.

"We want to emphasize the feelings and emotions of the characters because emotion is common in all cultures," Song told China Daily Thursday through a translator. "The Red Dress talks about how a woman should pursue love, and in more general terms how they should pursue life."

The Red Dress draws influence from the wedding customs of China's Jiangnan region, which includes the cities of Shanghai, Ningbo, Hangzhou and Suzhou.

Kevin McAnarney, a public relations representative involved in the CAEG's partnership with Lincoln Center, said the limited engagement is a good reason for theater fans to take notice of the CAEG offering.

"This group has been to Europe, but none of the big cities like Paris or Rome, so this is the first major city where they have performed," McAnarney said. "The show is only here at Lincoln Center in New York, and it's not being performed anywhere else."

Song said the intent of his group's partnership with Lincoln Center is to increase global understanding and "to know that this kind of performing arts exists".

(China Daily USA 03/07/2014 page2)