“We think now, the arts are global. It doesn’t just belong to West or East. We need to make things together, to make new arts in this generation.”
As one of the country’s youngest ballet troupes, Suzhou Ballet Theatre, which was founded in 2007, has remained devoted to cross-cultural conceptions and cross-boundary exploration. Romeo and Juliet is one of the troupe’s finest examples of where East meets West .
Shakespeare’s classic play has been given a stylish, modern and, above all, Chinese look. Most of the innovation, the troupe’s director Li Ying says, was inspired by traditional Chinese culture. Props include paper fans, silk umbrellas and Peking Opera masks.
“We wanted to create a version of Romeo and Juliet that was modern in terms of aesthetics, with Chinese elements, such as the value system and emotions,” said Li Ying. Li choreographed the work with her husband Pan Jiabin, the Artistic Director.
Jiabin Pan and Ying Li are husband and wife. Pan started his dance career at the Liberation Army Dance Group in Jinan, Shandong Province, where he met Li in Beijing. They both graduated from Beijing Dance Academy in 1987 and joined the National Ballet of China as principal dancers In the same year. In 1992, they were recruited to join the Ballet Met in Columbus, Ohio in the United States, before dancing with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for twelve years until retiring from the stage in 2006.
Both have received numerous international awards and recognition, including the 12th Varna International Ballet Competition (1986), and the 5th Osaka International Ballet Competition (1987). They were invited to perform at the 10th International Ballet Festival in Cuba (1987) and the Andersen Festival in Copenhagen, Denmark (1988). They were invited by the host of PBS Children’s Education Programme to be the program’s guest artists. Pittsburgh Magazine honoured Pan as an Outstanding Artist, and the Pittsburgh Cultural Arts Foundation honoured Li with an Institute Achievement Award.
In 2007, Ying Li and Jiabin Pan returned to Suzhou to further their love of ballet and pursue their passion of choreography when they were invited by Pan’s hometown Suzhou to start a ballet troupe. Their creative works for Suzhou Ballet Theatre include Double Happiness , Chopin’s Poem , Dancing on Rock ( 2008), Su SHOW (2009), Romeo and Juliet (2010), Coppelia (2011), Legend of Beauty (2012), The Nutcracker (2013) and Carmen (2014). Their innovative creations have received extensive recognition. In 2012, they transformed the legacy of Xi Shi, the most beautiful and mysterious woman in ancient Chinese history, into a well-acknowledged ballet production Legend of Beauty , which received funding from the China National Endowment for the Arts in 2014. Under their leadership, Suzhou Ballet Theatre is in constant innovation in creating legacy and making ballet history in China.
Suzhou Ballet Theatre was established and founded by Suzhou Culture and Arts Centre in June 2007. It is one of the sixth professional ballet companies in China and the only one in Jiangsu Province. Led by artistic directors Ying Li and Jiabin Pan, the Theatre incorporates original works and aspires to produce new pieces while developing dancers to reach their fullest potential. The company members come from major ballet companies in China, including the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy. This group is the youngest, most energetic and vibrant ballet company in modern China.
The company has performed many classical Pas de Deux, such as Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, La Sylphide, Sleeping Beauty, and Coppelia . Artistic directors have created many new works for the company: Double Happiness, Chopin’s Poem, Dancing on Rock, and Su SHOW to promote the culture of Suzhou.
In 2010, the Company choreographed a Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet, which sets itself apart from other classical versions in the world. In 2011, the Company chose Coppelia as its annual production, which displays the creative and innovative characteristics of the Company.
In 2012, the Company created Legend of Beauty, which portrays a legacy intertwined with affection and hatred, romance and conflicts based on Chinese culture during the historical background of Wu-Yue hegemony. A very special mice version of The Nutcracker was created and performed in 2013. In 2014, the Company choreographed a new version of Carmen to give the Ballet a modern interpretation while maintaining the dynamic, exciting plot of original. Carmen was invited to perform at the XXII international Opera Festival in Nova Opera in Bydgoszcz, Poland in 2015.
The Company has both a national and international reputation. In March and June 2012, the Company successfully performed its Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet at National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing and Shanghai Grand Theatre, two of the highest-status palaces for performing arts in China. In November 2013, the Company’s Romeo and Juliet was invited to perform at the 1st China International Ballet Festival. In 2014, the Company’s Legend of Beauty became the funded recipient of China National Endowment for the Arts.
Under the leadership and guidance of its artistic directors – Ying Li and Jiabin Pan, Suzhou Ballet Theatre has quickly developed into one of the most renowned ballet company in China. Their originality and creative works have been widely recognized and acknowledged, as one Chinese dance critic stated, “Suzhou Ballet Theatre will become a significant driving force for ballet’s growth and development in China.”
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