In the mood for dance
By Chen Jie
Updated: 2007-11-19 07:16


Performed by Shanghai Ballet Company, In the Mood for Love is reminiscent of Wong Kar Wai's Cannes Film Festival award winner movie of the same title. File photos

Beijing's classical music fans have enjoyed their month-long festival and now it is the turn of dance lovers to celebrate.

The annual Beijing International Dance Festival kicked off on Saturday and in the next month-and-a-half, 15 companies from home and abroad will be treating the capital's dance stages with 39 shows in a variety of styles.

The Broadway production 42nd Street, The Drover's Wives by an Australian theater company, and the original Tibetan gala show, Tibetan Mystery, will be highlights of the first phase of the festival. In the second phase, three shows are highly recommended: Paul Taylor's triple bill, In the Mood for Love, performed by Shanghai Ballet Company, and Cinderella by the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

A modern dance classic, an original Chinese ballet and a classically romantic Western ballet have different flavors but are all big dishes for those who love dance.

In the Mood for Love is reminiscent of Wong Kar Wai's feature movie of the same title. Yes, the ballet is adapted from it but changes the location and time from 1960's Hong Kong to 1930's Shanghai.

"I have planned for some time to produce a ballet featuring Shanghai women from the 1930s, dressed in mandarin gown qipao. Only Shanghai ballet dancers, with the Shanghai demeanor in their blood, can interpret this. I want to make it a signature ballet for Shanghai," says Xin Lili, artistic director of the Shanghai Ballet Company and a former ballerina.

She settled on Wong's movie, which won a Cannes Film Festival award in 2000 because, "It's a movie with little dialogue but a lot of body language, perfect for staging as dance."

The project started in 2005, during the Year of France in China. After which the Association Francaise d' Action Artistique asked Bertrand d'At, director of the Ballet de l'Opera National du Rhin, in France, to choreograph.

Bertrand d'At loved the unrequited love story of In the Mood for Love, but initially had his doubts that it could translate to the stage.

"In the film, the two characters hardly touch each other. But then you realize that the body language, and the way they are never really together, is part of the intrigue," says the choreographer, who was formerly an assistant to legendary choreographer Maurice Bejart.

In order to create a ballet with a Shanghai character and spirit, the French choreographer visited historical sites and collected materials from the 1930s that accurately revive the sad but beautiful love story. "Although I didn't live in Shanghai at that time, the city nicknamed 'the Paris of the East' has a lot of similarities with my hometown, Paris," d'At says.

"Also, love is a worldwide theme. No matter what country people come from, I believe they will understand the dance, which is an investigation of love and relationships."

"I've created the dance in a neo-classical way, putting together classical ballet, contemporary ballet, jazz dance and even those dances popular in old Shanghai's ballrooms, to represent the romanticism and luxury of the city at that time."

The ballet was acclaimed at its premiere in Shanghai on September 2, 2006, but this will be the first time it has been seen in the capital city.

Ballerina Fan Xiaofeng, who takes the role played by Hong Kong star Maggie Cheung in the movie, wears a series of gorgeous qipao designed by Jerome Kaplan. It will be interesting to see if she can be as intriguing as Cheung.

Equally, it will be worth noting how the 28-year-old Sun Shenyi recreates the 30-something Li, whom Hong Kong star Tony Leung so memorably played and for which he won the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

The show will run at Poly Theater on Tuesday and Wednesday.

(China Daily 11/19/2007 page8)