Hamlet en pointe

Updated: 2013-11-22 02:25

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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A star choreographer packages the madness, grief and rage of Shakespeare's prince of Denmark into a dance drama all her own, Chen Nan reports.

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 Yuanyuan first collaborated with renowned filmmaker Feng Xiaogang in 2006, choreographing dance sequences for composer Tan Dun's music in Feng's film, The Banquet, an adaptation of Hamlet. "It's an alternative work compared to my other films," Feng told Wang on the set, referring to his departure from the comedy films he was known for. "It fulfilled my longtime desire to interpret traditional Chinese aesthetics." Sharing the same understanding for traditional Chinese aesthetics, Wang choreographed several dance pieces for the actors, including Zhang Ziyi, Zhou Xun and Daniel Wu.

"Both of us enjoyed our collaboration very much," Wang recalls.

It wasn't the end of the story, though. The two were keen on the idea of developing the dance pieces for The Banquet into a complete ballet. But they had to wait until the time was right.

Over the past seven years, Feng has made films of different genres and returns to comedy this year. He was too busy directing the 2014 CCTV Spring Festival Gala to attend Wang's press conference for her new show.

Wang founded Beijing Dance Theater with veteran lighting director Han Jiang and set designer Tan Shaoyuan in 2008, looking for artistic freedom in contemporary dance. The same year, she choreographed for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, collaborating with director Zhang Yimou, whom she had worked with on a ballet version of Raise the Red Lantern in 2001.

Her works such as Haze and Golden Lotus have toured around the world, making her one of the most pioneering choreographers in China.

It wasn't until last year that Wang picked up the Hamlet idea again. After a year of preparation, the modern ballet dance, Hamlet, will premiere in Beijing on Dec 3 and 4, followed by an international tour after the 2014 Spring Festival.

"The idea has been lingering in my mind for years but I was looking for the most appropriate way to interpret it through modern ballet dance," says Wang.

Unlike film, dancers don't talk onstage, so the choreographer must use physical movements, stage design and music to display the characters.

Wang says that over the years, her idea of choreographing a dance adapted from Shakespeare's Hamlet has evolved greatly. The historical story gets a modern edge in Wang's bold new ballet, far beyond the dance pieces for The Banquet which have a strong traditional Chinese style.

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