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"The Peony Pavilion", Performed by China Jinling Dance Company, at David H. Koch Theater
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"The Peony Pavilion", Performed by China Jinling Dance Company, at David H. Koch Theater

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The China Arts and Entertainment Group

The Peony Pavilion

Performed by:
China Jinling Dance Company
(China Jinling Website)

Producer: Zhang Yu
Executive Producer: Zhang Shuxin
Production Director: Qin Wenhuan
Executive Director: Wang Xuiqin
Choreographers: Ying Zhiqi, Lu Ling, Wu Ning
Composers: Fang Ming, Wang Wei, Hui Peifeng
Stage Art Designer: Zhou Danlin, Yuan Ye
Lighting Designer: Wang Ruiguo
Costume Designer: Mo Xiaomin
Prop Designer: Lu Ye
Sound Designer: Shen Xueye

Performed by:
Xu Xinyu as Du Liniang
Han Bo as Liu Mengmei
Wu Jian as Liniang’s Father
Yi Jingjing as Liniang’s Mother
Cai Yongjian as Tutor
Liu Liang as Spring God
Li Yanfeng as Infernal Judge
Han Daoliang and Yang Jian
as Messengers of Death

At the
David H. Koch Theater

Press: Kevin P. McAnarney/KPM Associates

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 5, 2012

The Peony Pavilion, choreographed in 2008, from segments of a twenty-hour opera, was first performed in Southern China by China Jinling Dance Company. Now it’s finally reached the US, and our national ballet community will be ever so grateful. Even more exciting than a US debut was the debut of the two understudies, Xu Xinyu, as Du Liniang, the Magistrate’s daughter, and Han Bo, as Liu Mengmei, a scholar. The listed leads had both sustained injuries. Ms. Xinyu and Mr. Bo were two of the most elegant, ethereal, enchanting ballet dancers to visit New York from overseas in some time. Every moment they were onstage was a balletomane’s gift, as they danced with seamless skill and courage, taking the opening night leads in front of press and the tri-state, Chinese arts audience. Whole families arrived in anticipation of the China Jinling Dance Company’s US introduction, with this complex, four-act ballet.

Before the romantic plot unfolded, we were treated to a sumptuous recorded score, life-like paintings and photographs of water lilies and goldfish, moving in filmatic style, with bubbles bursting in a pond. In fact, the sets, costumes, film effects, and lighting, throughout the evening were effervescent in lush shades of pink, yellow, green, gold, red, and blue. Expanses of silk extended across the stage, such as in a marketplace scene and a wedding scene, to draw the audience right into the fantasy. Every visual effect and ornamentation in Peony Pavilion was conceived for exotic imagination. It was astonishing that the Company was able to travel with an ever-shifting set design, of flowering gardens, a gazebo, walking bridges, market shops, and large hand-sewn stage carpeting with three-dimensional lilies and flowers. The aesthetic, multi-media construction should be a model for future ballets and operas. I couldn’t stop seeing it for days in my mind.

The Peony Pavilion centers on Du Liniang, who has a gorgeous dream, while napping in her own garden’s pavilion. (Giant peonies appeared on screen and stage). In the dream, she meets the scholar, Liu Mengmei, who dances with a willow twig, extrapolated from the many painted willow trees. They dance with lifts, embraces, and youthful abandon, evocative of the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene; the freshness of first love. Liniang awakes, and when she realizes she’s alone again, she succumbs from a broken heart. Liniang’s mother, father, and neighbors grieve, and doctors fail to save the sixteen year-old girl. But, before she dies, she creates a self-portrait, so her family can remember her.

At some point in the future, the portrait is sold at the market to Liu, the same scholar from Liniang’s dream. Just as Liu gazes upon the drawn figure, Liniang’s spiritual self flies in from the rafters, in eerie, white silk. The spirit and Liu have little time together, when the Messengers of Death bring Liniang to the trial of the Netherworld, with ghosts and goblins torturing her soul. Liniang begs for her life and love, and the Infernal Judge allows her to escape, back to her home and garden. The spirit is once again filled with life, and Liu arrives at this moment, followed by the requisite ballet wedding scene. Ms. Xinyu and Mr. Bo donned, together, a giant red and floral kimono. The Company, as ghosts, goblins, market community, neighbors, and garden fairies, was outstanding. There was no listing of the Company’s Corps dancers, but they changed mood and dance motif constantly, as the plot wove from peaceful bliss, to surreal fright, to magical reunions. The leads for Liniang’s Parents, plus the Tutor, Spring God, Inferno Judge, and Messengers of Death, were all compelling and impassioned. And, speaking of passion, at the curtain, Ms. Xinyu and Mr. Bo dashed to each other, from opposite sides of the stage, in a brisk, balletic embrace, to keep the energy in motion.

What struck me about this Company, in its US debut, was the stylized form of the slipper-ballet, no pointe, replete with athletic choreography, high jumps, extensive leaps, and in-the-moment ultra-technique, without grandstanding or showiness. This is an honest and humble Company that brought beauty and grace in an amazing splash of color and character. Even the ghoulish Netherworld trials were uniquely entertaining, with painted blue-red costumes glowing in the dark. I’d love to see this ballet again, especially with a live orchestra and chorus (there were occasional operatic vocals included in the score). China Jinling Dance Company made a fantastic first impression. Kudos to all.

China Jinling Dance Company
in "The Peony Pavilion"
Courtesy, China Jinling Dance Company

China Jinling Dance Company
in "The Peony Pavilion"
Courtesy, China Jinling Dance Company

China Jinling Dance Company
in "The Peony Pavilion"
Courtesy, China Jinling Dance Company

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at