August 7, 2008

Feature: China’s Acrobatic Swan Lake Conquers Audience at Royal Opera Houseby Ma Guihua

Feature: China's acrobatic Swan Lake conquers audience at Royal Opera House by Ma Guihua

LONDON, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- An innovative acrobatic rendition of Swan Lake from China won the hearts of the critical elite on Tuesday night at the pretigeous Royal Opera House at London's Covent Garden, with a full house plus audiences bravoing, whistling and applauding for its spectacular first night appearance.

"Incredible" and "wonderful" were general comments from audiences who felt reluctant to leave after the breathtakingly entertaining Swan Lake makeover which combines classical ballet with traditional acrobatics, turning ballet on its head.

In the fresh adaptation of Swan Lake performed by the Guangdong Acrobatic Company, a European prince falls in love with swan in his dream. He then searches far and wide, from Egypt to Thailand, before finally finds her in China. In the course of his adventurous pursuit accompanied by male clowns that at one time dressed as little swans, the prince encounters marvelous acrobatic talents such as pole balancing, ball walking, hat and ball juggling and jujitsu and magic.

The most amazing spectacle for viewers was to see white swan dancing on high wire and en pointe on top of the Price's head and shoulders. Four little frogs jumping and dancing on their arms to the renowned tune of four little swans brought great amusement and admiration from the floor.

"I like the little frogs. That's great acrobatics," said a man writing theater column for a Catholic Tribune, adding that "It's a good year for China, with so many high-quality theaters, films, exhibitions and shows staged in Britain."

Watching the diversely-skilled acrobatic stunts which include human wheels, white swans on roller-skates to be punctured with humor and accompanied all the time by Tchaikovsky's ballet scores of Swan Lake, the discerning Royal Opera House audiences who have seen countless Swan Lake editions were struck afresh with this new interpretation.

"This is the most miraculous and unique night," marveled Lilian Hochhauser who brings the show to the Royal Opera House (ROH) as part of the China season.

"They are full of skills. Although acrobatics is something different from those normally staged at the Royal Opera House, they still belong here," she noted.

Lilian got the idea to bring the show to London's Royal Opera House, one of the world's most prestigious places, when she saw it two years ago in Moscow. The idea had full support from Tony Hall, chief executive of the Opera House who is "enthusiastic to draw new audiences to shows other than Beethoven and Mozart".

But even for a professional promoter who has worked with ROH for 50 years, the total sell-out of the seven shows in the coming nights is quite a rarity. Not to mention the sell-out of 200 standing seats as well.

The 82-year-old promoter was the first to bring China acrobatics to Britain in 1974, and in ensuing years, Chinese wushu and Peking Opera all made their appearances here in London. This time, however, after some 20-year interval, she again wants to bring "proper" acrobatics to the stage of Royal Opera House.

Congratulating Lilian and her husband after the first night show, Monica Mason, artistic director of the Royal Ballet, thanked the couple for bringing to London a "special treat". "The audiences are so excited to see something so different and of such high quality."

Produced by Shanghai City Dance Limited and premiered in Beijing in 2006, Acrobatic Swan Lake has since embarked on a global tour with 200 shows to date to its credit. As part of China Now, a 6- month celebration of Chinese culture in Britain in the run up to the Beijing Olympics, it had visited Manchester for 5 shows before setting its feet in the Royal Opera House. The Guangdong Acrobatic Company will travel to Nottingham after the London leg before returning to China for the closing ceremony of the Beijing Paralympics in September.

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