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New dance center offers a global stage

By Zhang Kun in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2016-09-12 07:34

The new Shanghai International Dance Center will celebrate its opening on Oct 1, adding one more landmark to the city's cultural map.

The opening season features original productions of the Shanghai Ballet and the Shanghai Song & Dance Troupe, outstanding dance companies from other parts of China, and internationally acclaimed dancers such as Tan Yuanyuan, the Shanghai native who is the principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, and groups like the Batsheva Dance Company from Israel.

The center consists of four new constructions and six historical buildings, which will be the home of Shanghai Ballet, Shanghai Song & Dance Troupe, the Dance College of Shanghai Theater Academy, and the dance school attached to it.

New dance center offers a global stage

The Shanghai International Dance Center will become a new cultural icon when it opens in October. Photo Provided to China Daily

The core of the center is a new theater with 1,080 seats. The opening performance, Hamlet by Shanghai Ballet, will be presented here.

There is also a smaller performing hall, as well as a total of 48 rehearsal rooms in the complex.

Equipped with the latest in cushioned floors, the rehearsal rooms and stages will provide maximum protection for the "knees, backs and necks of dancers", says Xin Lili, director of Shanghai Ballet.

The new facilities will help dancers significantly extend their careers, she says. "In many countries, ballet companies often sign contracts with their dancers until the age of 42, while in China, dancers used to retire in their 30s due to frequent injuries."

Chen Feihua, director of Shanghai Song & Dance Troupe, describes the new facility as "a dream come true" and "a landmark for dancing art second to none, even internationally".

This facility will draw top-notch international productions, he says.

Xin says that the new facilities will enable her company to have more interaction with overseas counterparts; quite a few ballet companies have expressed interest in exchanges with Shanghai Ballet.

"We will also have guest dancers, choreographers and dance teachers from abroad," Xin says.

Chen says brand-new apartments for dancers have also helped to lure talent from other parts of China.

Zhu Guang, a veteran journalist and culture critic based in Shanghai, says the launch of a new theater of more than 1,000 seats means one more cultural landmark in Shanghai, but more importantly, indicates innovation and new impetus for the cultural development of the city.

The center sits in the Hongqiao residential area in the western side of the city. For decades, Hongqiao has been a residential community for expats and wealthy Chinese. The area has plenty of fine diners and shopping centers. Yet there was no major cultural facility.

"The lack of a signature cultural facility has made the area less perfect. Together with a new art space, Liu Haisu Art Museum next door, the new dance theater has filled a cultural gap," she says.

Both the new museum and the dance center are part of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) for cultural establishments in Shanghai, and construction began in 2012.

The center covers 39,100 square meters.

The new center is where the Shanghai Dance School used to be. Both Chen and Xin studied there in the 1970s.

"It was a quiet suburb at that time. The last bus left at 8:30 pm," Xin recalls. "Now the metro station is right at our gate."

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