The stage is set

Updated: 2011-04-19 08:47

By Chen Jie (China Daily)

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 The stage is set

Peony Pavilion sees a Western classical ballet and symphony orchestra arrangement combined with a quintessentially Chinese story.

"It was so hard to write the music because I neither make love in dreams nor with ghosts," he says jokingly.

The show has an impressive and modern setting, by the German designer Michael Simon, and flowing costumes by Emi Wada.

The premiere in May 2008, in Beijing, received mixed reviews. Some conservative critics did not like the contemporary work and said the choreography was banal. They did not understand why choreographer Fei adds a flower goddess, which does not exist in the play, and a Kunqu Opera performer who represents another face of Du.

But its revival at the Hong Kong Arts Festival in February 2010 was widely acclaimed. Mills saw the show in Beijing in May 2010 and decided to take it to Edinburgh.

"I love the ballet very much. It's an interesting combination of Western classical ballet, a classic symphony orchestra, traditional Chinese instruments and a quintessentially Chinese story, which demonstrates the ideas and ambitions of our Festival 2011."

Mills also gave Fei some suggestions to improve the choreography and make clearer the relation between Du, the Flower Goddess and the Kunqu Opera-styled Du.

It is the 31-year-old choreographer Fei's first full-length ballet. After graduating from Beijing Dance Academy in 2002, Fei joined the NBC as its first and only full-time choreographer. The contemporary dance-trained choreographer has created many short pieces for NBC's dancers to perform at international competitions. His Memory won the Best Choreographer prize at the Helsinki International Ballet Competition in 2005.

Using Fei, who is relatively unknown, underscores NBC's courage and ambition to develop its own young choreographers.

As China's best and one of the world's leading ballet companies, NBC has invited many internationally established choreographers to create for it.

"Our most important mission is to create original Chinese ballet and develop our own choreographers," says its current president Feng Ying. "A ballet company's development depends on its ability to create."

To discover, encourage and promote choreography from within the company, Feng instituted an annual workshop after taking up her position in 2010.

In three weeks last April, two European choreographers were invited to work with four of NBC's young dancers and their works were well received at two performances.

This year, eight dancers including the principals Li Jun, who performs Liu in Peony Pavilion, and Yu Bo, joined the workshop.

"I performed a piece choreographed by a young colleague last year. I was impressed by the innovation and deeply encouraged, so I decided to give it a try this year," Yu says.

The fruits of this year's three-week workshop will be showcased in two performances, at Tianqiao Theater on April 23 and 24.

After that NBC will perform the revised Peony Pavilion at Tianqiao Theater on April 28 to 30, before it sets off to Edinburgh in August.

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