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Ballet in China> Beijing Review Archive> 2000s
UPDATED: November 19, 2007 NO. 47 NOVEMBER 22, 2007
The Show Must Go On
China's performing arts market is staging itself for a succession of encores as problems in the system are given attention

CLASSIC REVIVAL: A latest ballet Bai Mao Nu (White-Haired Girl) pays more attention to the aesthetic demand of modern audience

As Christmas, New Year and the Spring Festival draw near, big cities in China are preparing for another hectic season of theater performances.

And there is certainly no shortage of variety. Entering the Poly Theater, one of the best performance venues in Beijing, audiences are bombarded with colorful posters advertising the string of shows lined up for the holiday season.

Jinsha--the first original Chinese musical creation, the exquisite performance of renowned Chinese violinist Lu Siqing, the OSPA Symphony Orchestra from Spain and other high-class performances both domestic and overseas are all part of the offerings.

Another treat also lies in splendid wait for Beijing audiences, when the recently completed National Grand Theater opens its elegant doors on December 22, with 78 plays and 180 performances in the pipeline. The opening season will last three months and end on April 6, 2008.

With economic development, China's performance industry has also moved into the fast lane. The demand for entertainment has increased. Going to a theater to watch a drama or listen to a concert is now a part of life for many ordinary people. And among young people with high incomes, going to the theater is now a trend, according to Yang Lin, Manager of Beijing YanLe Cultural Communication Co. Ltd., which has operated New Year concerts for six consecutive years.

"Attending a New Year concert is now a habit for many people," he said.

Shanghai is another major performance center in China, whose audiences have grown to enjoy foreign performances. This summer, Shanghai has been seduced by the charms of the world's most popular musical, Mamma Mia.

Hearing that Mamma Mia was heading for Shanghai, ice-cream rep Shen Liang booked two mid-range tickets at 1,000 yuan ($135 ) each.

To some enthusiastic art lovers like Shen, the wealth of prosperous performing arts in Shanghai is one of the important reasons that attract them to live in this city.

"My wife and I watch at least three performances a month, and we can watch world-class stage artists in our own city. It's great," said Shen.

Seating and booking

However, as demand grows, theater seats are struggling to keep up. Even in a city like Beijing, performers have to book at least six months in advance, despite the high rental fees. While 1,000 seaters are relatively many in Beijing, larger theaters seating 3,000 or more are few and far between.

The opening of the National Grand Theater, however, will more or less alleviate much of this pressure. As for Shanghai, it is reported that a large theater, specially designed for musicals, will be built by 2010 when the city holds the World Expo.

Back in Beijing, the mushrooming number of ticket booking companies has also benefited from the rise of the performing arts market in the city.

"It's been a hot market this year and our sales volume has increased more than 20 percent," said Zuo Ye, General Manager of Beijing Zhongwen Zongheng Ticketing Co. Ltd., one of the leading ticket agents in Beijing.

As the most robust ticket market in China, Beijing owns around 100 ticket companies and numerous touts.

It has become relatively easy to get tickets in the capital. Options include advanced ticket vending machines situated conveniently in shopping malls, theater booking offices, online booking or the several TV and radio quizzes offering performance tickets as prizes.

Private involvement

The involvement of private performing art agencies has boosted the performing arts market in China. Although state-owned performance institutions still dominate the market, private companies still feel confident about their future.

Founded in 2000, Beijing Kunpeng Performance Co. Ltd. is one of those private companies seeking their place in the sun. "Although we cannot currently compete with large state-owned companies, we can offer variety, and our aim is to focus on small and medium-sized shows, hoping to find a niche in the market, " said Chen Sheng, a company spokesman.

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