Off Stage: Revisiting Chinese Ballet

After writing yesterday about Ying Li and Jiabin Pan, who left their mark on Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre during a ten-year career, I thought I would email Jiabin, just to check in on the couple’s ballet adventure. While on a trip with the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra several years ago, I was able to squeeze in a visit with the pair in Suzhou, where they helped found the Suzhou Ballet Theatre, and reported on that experience in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The ballet company, only the sixth then in China, was composed of young dancers. (There are now eight, including Hong Kong Ballet, which was incorporated into China along with the city itself, and Beijing Contemporary Dance Theater, which began in 2008). In creating both a company and an audience, Ying and Jiabin presented educational performances, where they explained the inner workings of ballet to local audiences, similar to the clip below.

Jiabin wrote further that the Stuttgart Ballet performed at Suzhou Science and Cultural Arts Center and Suzhou Ballet Theatre was able to perform the company’s “Double Happiness” at a gala that included the Stuttgart. Although he didn’t say, I’m assuming that Jiabin was the choreographer, although he and Ying work together closely.

He seems to be heading in a decidedly contemporary direction and confessed to being influenced by Dwight Rhoden when I visited in China. It seems to be paying off. After only three years, SBT had a successful tour of Taiwan with the company’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Click on Taiwan News for Jiabin’s interview on the production.

Jiabin’s vision has the white evocative background of the Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo production with a Chinese vision of the ill-fated romance, but what is most convincing is the beauty and freedom of the young dancers, apparently all in their early twenties. He sent a video link with brief moments from the production for us to enjoy. Bravo!

(Warning: the web stream occasionally goes into stops and starts. Try later if this happens.)






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