China's original ballet productions


Updated: Mar 3, 2020 Print
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Ballet in two acts
World premiere in June 2018 at the Liaoning Grand Theater, Shenyang
By Liaoning Ballet of China

Producer: Qu Zijiao
Libretto based on the Chinese folk legend narrated in the “Ballad of Mulan”
Choreography: Wang Yong, Chen Huifen
Music: Liu Tong
Set design: Zhang Jiwen
Lighting design: Sergey Martynov
Costume design: Song Li
Make-up: Li Mingming

The bow is the signature stage prop of the title role Mulan. [Photo/]

Founded in 1980, Liaoning Ballet of China was the third state-owned ballet company to be formed in China, after China's National Ballet and Shanghai Ballet. Its original ballet Mulan is based on a popular Chinese folk tale about a young woman named Hua Mulan who, disguising herself as a man, voluntarily substitutes for her aged father and younger brother and is conscripted into the army. She spends 10 years in the army, defending her country against invasions, and eventually she becomes a valiant warrior. Despite her extraordinary military achievements, Mulan declines the Khan’s offer of accolade and an official title, returning to her hometown after the war.

Mulan's story was originally presented in a folksong, known as the "Ballad of Mulan", dated to the Northern Dynasties (386-581). The legend has been adapted into a TV series and an animated feature film, but this is one of the first productions to interpret it using the most iconic Western form of art – the ballet.

This original ballet showcases both Chinese elements and modern aesthetics. The program includes elegant classical ballet, fashionable modern ballet, and martial arts, all with dramatic and exciting stories. The dance of weaving fabrics, performed by Mulan in the first act, shows the heroine’s identity; a village daughter who, like other maidens of her age, is skillful at weaving and helps with agricultural activities.

Mulan develops a romantic relationship with General Li Shuo. [Photo/]

The biggest challenge for the heroine(and what creates the most captivating drama of Mulan) is the shift of role from a village maiden to a male soldier. Some of her dances are performed as a male figure dressed in armor with a weapon. She is required to fulfill every movement and gesture with both athletic strength and acrobatic ability.

Hua Mulan is a village maiden before she joins the army. [Photo/]

The second scene of Act One features dances depicting the military drills and fierce battles. The group dances are grand and overwhelming; the performers carry sticks in a lyrical combination of dance and Chinese martial arts.

The dance of military training [Photo/Xinhua]
Mulan and Li Shuo confront with the head of the enemy [Photo/Xinhua]

The heroine’s thoughts and feelings are also interpreted through dance. The friendship dance conveys both trust and a romantic relationship between Mulan the soldier and Li Shuo the military officer, with whom she has spent days and nights together in the barracks for years; while the wild geese dance reveals her nostalgia for home and family.

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