When China staged its own Swan Lake for the first time in 1958, it was thought fresh and charming. Performed by youngsters (averaging 16) most of whom four or five years ago didn't know the first thing about ballet, it was justifiably rated exceptional. Most of the cast, students of the Peking School of Dancing set up in 1954, have graduated and are dancing professionally on the stage.
Pai Shu-hsiang, who first danced the lead in Swan Lake, is becoming a ballerina of some renown. Another graduate, Chao Ching, daughter of the well-known screen artist Chao Tan, is now dancing the leading role in Precious Lotus Lantern, the classical ballet in national style which is a big hit on the Chinese stage.
Now, three years later, the school is sending out its second graduating class of 60 students from its two main departments of ballet and national dancing. They have completed a six-year course which includes the general curriculum of a senior high school and a solid experience of stage work. All have taken part in well-received public performances of ballets and traditional dances.
Among them is Chiang Chun, the son of a peasant in a suburban people's commune in Peking and Chen Nung-pu, 17-year-old overseas Chinese from Malaya.