In China, excerpts from the classical ballet, "Swan Lake" were recently staged by graduating students of the Peking Dance School.
In China, excerpts from the classical ballet, "Swan Lake" were recently staged by graduating students of the Peking Dance School. It has been two decades since the school performed ballet classics from the West. The "Gang of Four" led by Chairman Mao Tse-tung's wife, Chiang Ching decreed all Western culture ideologically unsuitable for Chinese audiences.
Excepts from "Swan Lake" were recently staged in the capital by sixth-year students of he Peking Dance School in their graduation performances, which also included traditional and modern Chinese dances.
This was bot the first time that classical ballets from the West had been presented by Chinese dancers. In 1958, four years after its founding as the first school of both national and western dance in China, the School had put on full-scaled productions of "Swan Lake" and other ballet classics to the acclaim of audiences and the press.
All such compositions, however, whether of music or dance, were forbidden by the "Gang of Four" for many years. Now, with the removal of the infamous gang, this aesthetic form of dance, like other theatrical realms, has once more gained a placed in China's cultural life.
SYNOPSIS: After the "Gang of Four" were deposed, China's new leadership promised cultural liberalisation. In the preceding years dancers were limited to works portraying what was called correct revolutionary themes. Workers, peasants and soldiers were always the heroes. Romance was counter-revolutionary, and strictly taboo.
Many singers, actors and dancers were accused of favouring decadent foreign perform.
The graduation performance of these dance students, who have been at the Peking Dance School for six years, reflects the promised loosening of political interference with cultural expression. Peter Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, with its theme of romance and its fairy tale escapism was last performed at the school in 1958. The recent performance was acclaimed by both audiences and the official media.
The revolution in Chinese ballet, however, has not been a total reversion to the Western classics. Students also learn the art of stylised, gymnastic dancing that falls halfway between ballet and Kung Fu fighting. This form of dance continues to promote historical themes such as political uprisings and the eventual victory of the peasant class. According to Reuters, Chinese culture will remain a vehicle for propaganda but the simple enjoyment of the art is now officially encouraged.