"The Peony Pavilion"
The National Ballet of China
David H. Koch Theater
New York, NY
July 8, 2015
by Mary Cargill
copyright © 2015 by Mary Cargill
"The Peony Pavilion" was written in 1598 and the love story, basically a mixture of "Romeo and Juliet" and "Orpheus and Eurydice," is a mainstay of Chinese opera. The Lincoln Center Festival showcased the 20 hour version in 1999, an explosion of colorful costumes, singing and acrobatics. This year, the Festival presented another take, a two-hour distillation by the National Ballet of China. The ballet company was founded in 1959 and based firmly on Russian training. (Pyotr Gusev was instrumental in setting it up.) The dancers still show their Russian background; like many of their Slavic sisters, the women are willowy, with long arms and sway backs that help them whack their heads. They dance with a uniform precision and soft style that made the corps work very impressive.
Women's corps in "The Peony Pavilion. Photo © Stephanie Berger Photography, Inc.