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Nutcracker (Lunar New Year) edition - National Ballet of China, Jan 2019 tour

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Quite an exciting, unique take on the Nutcracker :) Hats off to the principals especially, for their impeccable dancing in an incredibly intense pas de deux. A longer review may be found here.


It seems fitting that where the Western version of the Nutcracker celebrates Christmas, the version by the National Ballet of China (NBC) is built around the equally festive Lunar New Year, a season that's all about family as well. I was extremely impressed by how cleverly the Lunar New Year theme was transposed onto the Nutcracker ballet, and the ingenious use of symbols of Chinese culture and tradition.


A quick run-down of some new elements in this Nutcracker (Act 1): Instead of Clara and Fritz fighting over the Nutcracker, we have young Yuan Yuan and her cousin Tuan Tuan bickering over the toy. ('Tuan yuan' in Mandarin means 'reunion', and Lunar New Year is a time when families come together to celebrate.) In place of the Rat King and his soldiers, we have the mythical Nian monster, which legend says terrorised a village until it was chased away by loud firecrackers, the colour red, and spring scrolls (calligraphy scrolls). The first half of this Nutcracker involves dances containing many festive elements: dancers playing children dressed up as creatures from the Chinese Zodiac; rows of dancers holding lanterns in the dark; couples bearing spring scrolls.


New elements (Act 2 - when Yuan Yuan dreams that she is grown up and has met her Nutcracker Prince):  A few highlights - instead of the Kingdom of Sweets, we are carried away into the Porcelain Kingdom which is decorated with vases. Instead of snowflakes, we have gorgeous red-crowned cranes (symbolising good fortune and longevity) picking their way delicately through a field of falling snow,  the long elegant reaching arms and folded hands of the ballerinas bringing to mind the spreading wings of the birds; and their perfect little bourres depicting birds floating into the field. The Waltz of the Flowers was danced brilliantly by men and women dressed in costumes reminiscent of blue-and-white Ming Dynasty vases, and the choreography was inspired, bringing out the music in all its glory - the joyous triumphant lifts, the energetic leaps from the men. I was also exceptionally fond of the Dance of the Mirlitons, which took the form of a story of a boy and his kite (lovely lilting floating bourres and flicking arms to depict a kite whisking through the wind, and unwinding at the end of a ribbon) -- which ended with the kite breaking away, then returning to the boy willingly as his childhood companion.


On to the pas de deux: An incredible high-speed heart-stopping breathtaking performance by Zhang Jian (as the grown-up Yuan Yuan), who is partnered by the capable, strong Ma Xiaodong (the Nutcracker Prince). The choreography is light, speedy, incredibly athletic, and intoxicating. It is almost as if they are drawn together like magnets, as they swing from  strength to jaw-dropping strength with the finest grace and agility. Zhang Jian has incredible poise, excellent technique and the most expressive arms.


Special mention must be made of Qiu/ Yue Yunting, the lead crane (who can be found on google/youtube), for her charismatic, graceful dancing and for admirably remaining in character throughout as the gracious, assured leader of the cranes. Same for Zhan Xin-Lu (young Yuan Yuan), who has a fascinating dramatic range and clarity to her dancing and the energetic Teng Jiankai (Tuan Tuan) -- for on their capable shoulders rested almost the entire first half of the performance.

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10 hours ago, jm365 said:

This sounds amazing.  Is the company coming to London during their tour?  If so, where to and when, please?

I'm afraid not! I was under the impression there was a tour, but on checking further, it seems this could have been a one-off invite to Singapore. Their website does not list any recent international tour dates (last one being in 2015 to the USA).  My apologies for the incorrect impression given😔

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