Gen Z takes center stage in novel ballet

Xu Qin
Produced by Shanghai Ballet's youth creation team, the original dance theater "Fragments of Memory" will present three modern ballets in May.
Xu Qin

Original dance theater “Fragments of Memory” will present three modern ballets in May: “Life Is A Dream,” “Green, Blue And Purple” and “This Was A Home Once.”

Produced by Shanghai Ballet’s youth creation team, “Fragments” aims to provide young dancers with the confidence and expertise they need to thrive in an ever-competitive dance field where versatility is key.

“The average age of our youth creation team is just 22, but they represent the new ideas and mission of our troupe in this new era of innovation,” said Xin Lili, head of Shanghai Ballet.

“Ballet is an elegant and historic dance form renowned for its grace and difficulty. The new works reflect the feelings and emotions of the younger generation and their view of the world as they grow.”

Choreographed by first principal dancer Wu Husheng, “Life is a Dream” is a cross-field work loosely based on the plot of “The Dream in a Garden” from the 16th-century romantic Kunqu opera, “The Peony Pavilion.”

Zhang Ting from the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe will play the lead female role, Du Liniang, a heroine who overcomes obstacles transcending time, space, life and death in pursuit of true love.

“The first question Wu asked me is how fast we can spin in Kunqu,” Zhang said.

“We do have turning movements in Kunqu but certainly not as rapid as in the ballet. So we decided to combine the best features of the two arts while maintaining their independence.”

“As we have seen, innovation is far more difficult and complex than most people realize,” Xin said.

“The cross-field work is only 15 minutes long, but it’s a trial of a new idea. We have always wanted to work with Chinese operas. If possible, we can expand it by filling in more content and traditional Chinese aesthetics in the future.”

Gen Z takes center stage in novel ballet
Ding Xiaowen

Young dancers in training at the Shanghai Ballet

The one-act ballet, “Green, Blue and Purple,” is a series of original dances for two, three and other mixed variations. It features the most recent work, “Angel’s Smile,” which was specially choreographed by Xin in honor of Chinese medics who battled COVID-19.

Featuring elegant costumes, scenery and music, the “Angel’s Smile” unveils the spirit of those who overcome adversity, obstacles and difficult odds to accomplish something significant.

“This Was A Home Once,” a modern ballet choreographed by Wang Hao, integrates Vivaldi’s violin concerti “The Four Seasons” with current environmental problems and a global theme to issue a call to the planet.

“There is no one else to blame for what life is,” Wang said. “We have a responsibility to do our part. As dancers, we create consciously and respectfully through our body movements.”

Xin says the team will continue to polish and modify the performance in the coming weeks.

A public premiere is scheduled to take place at the Shanghai International Dance Center on May 8-10 if the epidemic continues to improve.

“Or we can share the performance via online streaming without a live audience,” Xin said.

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