Shanghai danseur tries his hand in choreography

Wu Husheng, Shanghai Ballet's first principal dancer, took the first step in choreography with his debut production "Lost Star," which was presented in July.

Wu Husheng, Shanghai Ballet’s first principal dancer, took the first step in choreography with his debut production “Lost Star,” which was presented in July.

It was staged at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing as part of the “Chinese Dance for 12 Days” project that highlighted dance creations by young artists.

It was performed in Shanghai for the first time at the Shanghai International Dance Center’s experimental theater on October 23.

Starring Wu and four of his colleagues, the contemporary piece that deals with growing up is his interpretation of letting go the past in order to move on, centering on a man who’s troubled by the past.

“We all need to let go of the past we created in order to move on. We all need to face the mistakes we made in order to grow up,” Wu said about the production.

Wu is one of the busiest stars of Shanghai Ballet who plays the lead role in more than 60 performances every year — that is about one performance every six days. “Lost Star” was created in his free time as he worked with Gu Jiajun to develop the script and with the dancers to get every move right.

“I’m very grateful to work with such an excellent team of dancers because creating a ballet can be a tedious task. One day we decided to do something and spent hours perfecting it, the next day we might start all over again,” he said.

Shanghai danseur tries his hand in choreography
Ti Gong

Shanghai-based ballerino Wu Husheng (center) performs in his first self-choreographed work “Lost Star.”

Wu didn’t want to dance in his first directorial effort, but Xin Lili, director of Shanghai Ballet, pushed him to play a role in his own production, which eventually turned out to be very rewarding.

“Because I had more time to see the whole picture rather than just do my own part, I didn’t have the chance to calm down and see from an audience’s perspective. There are some things on stage that I started to pay attention to after I created my first work,” he said.

For example, when he dances in fast pace on stage, he enjoys the feeling, but after he watched others dancing from the spectator seats, being fast was not so effective.

He gradually gained confidence in creating every move and expressing every character. His fears for not having enough choreography experience became challenges he enjoyed.

“From working out the storyline, choosing the music to selecting the dancers, I’ve had my doubts and frustrations, but day after day I saw how this work took shape. I felt an unprecedented sense of accomplishment,” said Wu.

When Wu was creating “Lost Star,” Xin stepped away so that the young artists could make every decision from lighting design to market planning. Because a choreographer has to take care of every aspect, the requirements are high because one not only needs to create the dance moves and story structure, but must also have the knowledge of costumes, lighting and control over other relevant production process.

Shanghai danseur tries his hand in choreography
Ti Gong

Wu Husheng in "Lost Star"

After finishing “Lost Star,” Wu learned what it takes to become a choreographer and what he had to learn to work on his artistic creation.

“But I’m not in a hurry to make the transition from dancer to choreographer. I’m in my ‘golden years’ on stage and I have a lot of performances with Shanghai Ballet. Performing on stage also enables me to observe how some ballets are made in the choreography perspective.”

Wu entered the Shanghai Dance School in 1997 and joined Shanghai Ballet after graduating in 2003.

He has performed the title roles in classical ballets like “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker” and contemporary productions like “Jane Eyre” and Balanchine’s “Serenade” and “La Valse.”

Wu won the Special Jury Award at the 3rd Shanghai International Ballet Competition in 2004, the silver and Igor Youskevitch Award at the 9th New York International Ballet Competition in 2007. He won the Shanghai Labor Medal and Young Talent of Shanghai Arts Culture in 2012.

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