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By CCTV reporter Julian Waghann
Numerous renowned foreign ballet companies, such as the Bolshoi, Marinsky and Stuttgart all love to perform in China. Competition for the Chinese market has, in recent years, become fierce. So how is the National Ballet of China gearing up for this competition?
"Don Quixote" has been brought back, this time, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the birth of legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev. He was the artistic director of the first production of "Don Quixote" at the National Ballet of China in 1985. Thanks to Rudolf, almost 20 years have gone by, the spirit of "Don Quixote" is still very much alive.
The errant knight appeared before a full house at the premiere of "Don Quixote" on Wednesday at Beijing’s Tianqiao Theatre. The original ballet is the result of Austrian composer Ludwig Minkus and French dancer and choreographer Marius Petipa. However, it was Rudolf Nureyev who condensed the ballet into three acts and helped popularize it in the West with his own version of the ballet.
The National Ballet of China first adapted "Don Quixote" in 1985 under the tutelage of Nureyev, followed by a first revival 12 years later. With the second revival of this western classic a world-calibre team has been assembled.
"The highlight of this revival is the stage design and lighting. We used a team of young designers from stage design to costume. They have brought in concepts of fashion and a modern interpretation of the piece," said Feng Ying, director of National Ballet of China.
In fact, one of the strengths of the National Ballet of China is its large troupe complete with every aspect of production from its own ballet school, the Beijing Ballet Academy, to the National Ballet of China Symphony Orchestra. This highly integrated production line with close cooperation among each department has made the National Ballet of China one of the most prolific dance companies in the world.
The company also regularly invites world renowned dancers for master classes and collaborates with international ballet companies such as the Paris Opera Ballet and the Kirov Ballet. This has greatly expanded the command of repertoire beyond those that are strictly Chinese in content.
Yet, the core of what makes the National Ballet of China so special is their dancers. For Don Quixote, the company has mobilized veteran prima ballerina Zhu Yan, who also danced in the 1997 revival of "Don Quixote", and the young but virtuoso danceur noble Ma Xiaodong.
Unlike their Western counterparts, many dancers at the NBC such as them, have been trained in Chinese ethnic dance and classical Chinese dance to further free their body and the mind. All those hard work has paid off in National Ballet of China’s "Don Quixote", that is both physically and emotionally demanding.
"It’s unlike the American Ballet Theatre or Russian versions. French version’s Basilio, for example, is more subtle and not simply uninhibited and boisterous. The inner subtlety of the character is given more attention," said principal dancer Ma Xiaodong.
"'Don Quixote' is a Spanish style type of dance. But each country’s dancers have their own characteristic. I think National Ballet of China brought their own understanding and interpretation of this ballet to the stage tonight," said an audience.
A big round of applause to the National Ballet of China, for having won the hearts of the Chinese audiences. "Don Quixote" will be performing at the Tianqiao Theatre in Beijing until Sunday.