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Ballet in China> Beijing Review Archive> 1990s
UPDATED: February 21, 2010 NO. 32 AUGUST 12, 1991
Promising National Ballet

The three-act ballet performance Wild Geese Fly South, presented recently by the Central Ballet Ensemble, greatly entranced audience.

Thematically, this is a modern ballet set in the War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-45). A country widow, Yu Zhen by name, saves a wounded armyman Wei Desheng. The two fall in love. However, instead of becoming absorbed in their affair, the soldier returns to his regiment to aid the driving out of the Japanese invaders from China. The lovers agree to meet when peace returns and when the northern wild geese fly back from the south.

Compared with Ode to Yimeng Mountain, a ballet on a similar theme produced by the same ensemble in the 1970s, Wild Geese Fly South gives fuller play to the sentiments between the hero and the heroine.

The performance is not lacking in beauty. Both the pas de deux and the solos of the leading dancers are exquisite and graceful. And, while the male group dances were forceful, the performances of women display great delicacy in, for instance, the prologue, Dance of Snowflakes. Mountain Flowers in Full Bloom in the first act when Yu Zhen is longing for love and Girls of Red Maple Leaves in the epilogue reveal the feelings of the main characters and give a special romantic atmosphere to the presentation.

The action shifts in time and space. In the prologue, as Yu Zhen is pulling the wounded soldier on a sleigh through the heavy snow, the semi-conscious Wei thinks he is still on the battlefield. At the same time, two platforms showing different times and places appear on the stage. One shows the present and the other the illusion battlefield. The natural use of this technique successfully strengthened the performance's dramatic effect.

A sharp contrast of colours helps the build up to the climax. The prologue is set in the whirling snow of a severe winter. The first act is an enchanting spring scene in Yu Zhen's house. The second act is the gruesome ground where the Japanese enslave their captives. In the third act and the epilogue, the lighting changes to a bright but slightly melancholy autumn.

The music, written by the well-known ballet composer Liu Tingyu, is another element in the performance's success. For the soldier there is a firm and unyielding march rhythm while for Yu Zhen, the tone is melodious and unsophisticated.

Wang Caijun and Wang Shan played the hero and heroine. Before the Wild Geese, they had danced the roles of Chinese and foreigners in many traditional and modern ballets.

Li Chengxiang, head of the Central Ballet Ensemble and one of the drama's playwrights, said, "Compared with foreign ballet or ballet on mythical themes, modern Chinese ballet is more difficult to produce." However, he thinks the national ballet is promising, adding "the success of Wild Geese has consolidated our confidence."

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