New take on Swan Lake; Leaving audiences stunned wherever it's played, the Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe of China's dazzling version of Swan Lake is ballet, but not as we know it. Dave Owens found out more.
AS spectacles go, get ready to be astounded by one of the most astonishing productions ever to be seen on the Wales Millennium Centre stage.
To paraphrase those famous lyrics from Doctor Doolittle, 'You would never have seen anything like it in your life!' When the Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe of China bring their eye-boggling version of Swan Lake to the WMC next week, you might not believe your eyes.
This is ballet re-born and re-constructed. When I viewed a promotional video for the production, a few of my colleagues gathered around my computer open-mouthed in amazement at the sight being played out on the screen.
Set to Tchaikovsky's luscious score and using a mix of ballet alongside world-class acrobatics including juggling, tightrope walking, trampolining, rings of fire and a ballerina doing a pirouette on a dancer's head and arm, this is a very different version of Swan Lake to any conventional take on the classic tale.
In the Chinese acrobatic Swan Lake, a European prince falls in love with a Chinese swan. The performance includes scenes in which the White Swan dances en pointe on top of the Prince's head and shoulders, and another in which the famous dance of the four little swans is transformed into a performance of four little frogs, played by men - who do the entire dance on their arms.
The incredible pas de deux between Wei Baohua's Prince and Wu Zhengdan's White Swan has made the couple - husband and wife in real life - into international stars.
The production proved a hit at its premire in Beijing in 2006 and has since thrilled audiences worldwide, from Moscow to New York.
Now the troupe is returning to the UK and making its Welsh debut with the production which took audiences by storm on its first visit in 2008.
Cardiff is one of only three stops the troupe make on their visit, the other cities visited being London (Coliseum) and Birmingham (Hippodrome).
As the recession bites, filling theatre seats becomes ever more difficult as people watch their pennies, but unsurprisingly this production is proving as popular as ever. And it's easy to see why.
Not many other productions offer pole balancing, jumping through fire hoops, rope walking, ball walking and jujitsu - all seamlessly woven into the show, alongside a constant blurring of performance styles including not only ballet and acrobatics but also elements of Peking Opera.
"As this is Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe of China's first ever visit to Wales as part of its second only tour of the UK, it's a huge honour for us to attract a company with such exceptional skill to Wales Millennium Centre," says Louise Miles-Crust, Wales Millennium Centre's artistic programme manager.
"Several dance companies have performed their versions of Swan Lake at the centre over the years. We've had Matthew Bourne's all-male version and the Imperial Ballet Stars' ice version but this offers a totally new perspective on this well-known ballet.
"Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe of China provide a brand new experience for audiences who are familiar with Swan Lake and offers an eye-opener of a production for those who are new to it.
"What sets it apart is it's unique mix of ballet alongside acrobatics, juggling, tightrope walking, trampolines, rings of fire and the pinnacle of it all - a ballerina doing a pirouette on a dancer's head!
"It's the kind of production which will have you talking about it way after you've seen it, mainly because you won't be able to believe that the dancers can achieve such a physical and spectacular performance."
"Bringing Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe of China to Wales Millennium Centre is part of our commitment to bringing the best international productions and dance to Wales and to challenge our audience to try something a little bit different."
Directed by the Guangdong Acrobatic Company's director Ning Genfu and choreographed by former Hong Kong Ballet principal dancer Zhao Ming, the production grew out of a desire to combine traditional Chinese performing art and classical ballet.
No one could argue it hasn't succeeded. * Swan Lake is at the Wales Millennium Centre from Thursday, August 18, to Saturday, August 20. Tickets priced pounds 17-pounds 35 are available from the box office on 029 2063 6464 or via www.wmc.org.uk WalesOnline.co.uk/guangdong
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|Publication:||South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Aug 12, 2011|
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