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Ballet in China> Beijing Review Archive> 1970s
UPDATED: February 23, 2010 NO. 25 JUNE 17, 1977
How French People View The White-Haired Girl

The modern revolutionary dance-drama The White-Haired Girl was for the first time performed in Western Europe by the Shanghai Dance-Drama Troupe of China. What do people there think of it?

An AFP reporter wrote after the Paris premiere on April 1: The whole of Paris applauded the troupe's depiction of the Chinese revolution through the dance.

The Chinese ballet-dancers made the viewers feel strongly with the Chinese peasants, said le Quotidien du Peuple. "We had a mind to jump on stage to join Xi Er (principal character) in beating up the landlord and to dance for joy with the liberated peasants."

Violette Vorty, the famous ballerina and President of the Ballet Ensemble of the Paris Drama Troupe, said to the Chinese performers: The task you have set yourselves to show the life of your people through classical ballet, in itself, is a tremendous thing. Your dancing is graceful, elegant, sincere, expressive of your lofty sentiments. In The White-Haired Girl, nothing is commercialized. Ballet like yours is indeed lofty art. In this regard, I can see in The White-Haired Girl certain hope for the future of ballet.

Veteran French ballet-dancer Minvielle said to the Chinese ballet director: Your ballet is different from the West's. Your subject-matter is contemporary, your motifs are revolutionary. It is closely linked to real life. It has political principles and is full of poetry. It has rich instructive significance.

Many in the audience were French working people. They had some interesting things to say. "This is genuine people's art." "It finds a sympathetic response in us." "We find it instructive and inspiring" - these are some of their comments. Letters of greetings and congratulations were received from workers of Lyons by the Chinese visitors. One said: "Your proletarian drama strengthened the friendship between our two peoples." An old nurse said: "When I saw Xi Er's hard lot I could not keep back my tears. It called to mind the wretched life of my grandmother brought about by landlord oppression. Your dancing is linked to the people."

Altogether, ten performances of The White-Haired Girl were given in Paris and Lyons from April 1 to 28. Eleven performances of excerpts from The White-Haired Girl and Chinese national dances and music were staged in Paris, Nice and Nancy. Militiawomen of the Grasslands, Tea-Picking Dance, and traditional Chinese instrumental music, er hu, flute, cheng and pipa solos were well received by audiences and members of the art community. A French musician who won a first-class award at Florence went backstage to congratulate Wang Changyuan who played the ancient cheng (a flat, five-stringed instrument). She gave Wang and Min Huifen who played the er hu (a two-stringed instrument) a record album of music popular in medieval Europe as a souvenir.

John Mclean, a musician, sought out the flautist Yu Shunfa and introduced him to a dozen types of flutes and played some folk pieces. Before they parted, he presented a piccolo wrapped in red cloth to Yu, who reciprocated with a small flute he had made himself.

The Chinese troupe's visit was an unusual event in Parisian art circles. One cultural critic compared this meeting of Chinese and French artists to a merging of the waters of the Yangtze and the Seine, flowing forward in a full spate of friendship.

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