National Ballet of China

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Chinese national ballet company based in Beijing. Western ballet was slow to develop in China, and the emerging national ballet company was initially nurtured by Russian influences. It began as the performing group of the Beijing Dance Academy, formed in 1959 under the direction of Petr Gusev, who brought in a Russian style of schooling and staged Soviet versions of the classics such as Swan Lake, Le Corsaire, and Giselle, often with guest Russian dancers. Bai Shu-xiang was the first Chinese Swan Queen. In 1963 the company became a fully professional dance company under the direction of Dai Ailian and the following year Beryl Grey became the first English ballerina to guest with the company. However during the years of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) the company's operations were severely restricted. Key individuals like Dai Ailian were marginalized and the repertory reduced to a skeleton of ideologically correct ballets, most typically The Red Detachment of Women (1964). With its corps de ballet of rifle-wielding female soldiers—all on pointe—the work was seen as a model marriage between the political ideology and culture of contemporary China and the traditions of Western ballet. After the years of the Revolution the company was slowly opened up to outside influences, with guest appearances from Fonteyn, Nureyev, Baryshnikov, and others, and the acquisition of new repertory, including works by Balanchine and MacMillan. The company however maintained its commitment to developing a uniquely Chinese identity with ballets such as Ode to the Yimeng Mountain, Son and Daughter of the Grassland, The Maid of the Sea, The New Year's Sacrifice, and Trilogy of Searching for Light. Jiang Zuhui (one of the choreographers of The Red Detachment of Women) staged several full-length ballets for the company, including Laurencia, La Esmeralda, and The New Year's Sacrifice. Under Zhao Ruheng (appointed deputy director 1993 and executive director in 1994), the company further widened its repertory. In 2001 Zhang Yimou was invited to adapt his film, Raise the Red Lantern, as a full-length ballet, and in 2007 dancers from the company collaborated with the UK-based choreographer Akram Khan on the dance drama bahok. In the same year the company acquired a new production of Swan Lake staged by Makarova, with Wang Qimin dancing Odette/Odile to international acclaim. Zhao retired in 2008 and was succeeded by Feng Ying. Most of the company's dancers are graduates of the Beijing Dance Academy, renowned as a centre for classical training.

http://www.ballet.org.cn Website for the Chinese National Ballet

Subjects: Dance.

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