Chinese New Year Holiday: Dancing – all the right moves

The New Year holiday period is traditionally a time for dance companies to showcase their best in Beijing. Dance is always popular during the New Year holiday season in Beijing and 2011 is no different. No matter what your age or taste, there is sure to be something to whet your appetite.

If you are a high-brow ballet fan, you are bound to be delighted by the star-studded ballet gala at the National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) this weekend.

Every January, NCPA invites ballet stars from world-renowned companies to share the stage for a gala. In 2011, 12 dancers are featured, from American Ballet Theater (ABT), the Royal Ballet, Staatsballett Berlin, Paris National Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and National Ballet of China.

Some of them will be new faces to Beijing audiences, while others have already made their mark here, such as ABT’s Angel Corella.

The 35-year-old Spanish-born star’s performance in Don Quixote received rapturous applause when ABT toured Beijing in 2009. This time he will present a solo piece, We Got It Good, which combines contemporary ballet with jazz; and the pas de deux Solea with ABT’s ballerina and sister Carmen Corella, blending classical ballet with flamenco.

In 2008, The Royal Ballet’s Beijing tour included all the company’s principal dancers except for Alina Cojocaru, as she had injured her leg. This time, she comes with her lover Johan Kobborg to perform the classical ballet Coppelia pas de deux and a modern piece, Rhapsody, to Rachmaninov’s music.

The most eye-catching star should be Polina Semionova from the Staatsballet Berlin. The Russian ballerina has never visited China but her videos are popular on China’s video website She will perform Le Corsaire pas de deux with her brother, Dmitry Seminov.

In 1661, the French king Louis XIV, who had a strong interest in dancing, established the Academie de Danse in a room of the Louvre, the world’s first ballet school. The fruits of this initiative are here today, for all of us to admire.

National Ballet of China’s principal dancers, Zhang Jian and Cao Shuci, will perform Etudes, a one-act ballet by Danish dancer and choreographer Harald Lander, which is considered a homage to classical ballet training. It begins with traditional ballet exercises at a bar and ends with spectacular bravura displays.

If ballet is high-brow, flamenco fever is spreading across the continents and is enjoyed by the masses.

The Carmen Mota flamenco troupe from Spain will grace the capital in January with its superb choreography, rhythmical beats, and dance routines.

The show, Fuego! (Spanish for fire) was created by the legendary choreographer Carmen Mota, known for taking the traditions of flamenco and infusing them with a contemporary vision.

It is a fierce celebration of exhilarating flamenco rhythms combined with refined modern elements.

In the program notes, Mota explains: “Flamenco is a dance style that easily combines with modern music and other forms of dance. I decided to break with tradition and clich, and use my imagination to create a show that breathes fire and passion in all aspects.”

By the age of 17, Mota was performing as a leading soloist. In 1977, she set up her own dance company. As a choreographer, she views herself as “passionate, with a clear idea of what I want to transmit to the audience but at the same time with an open mind for suggestions or other approaches”.

Think of Riverdance and replace Irish dancing with flamenco and you will have an idea of what Fuego! is all about.

The Argentinean tango has been listed as an intangible heritage of the world by UNESCO. This weekend, the Mora Godoy Tango Company from Argentina will give two shows at the Cultural Palace of Nationalities.

Seven dance couples will perform traditional tango with a modern twist and other folk dances, such as salsa, to music by Astor Piazzolla.

“Mora Godoy is one of the best tango companies in Argentina. It’s fusion tango, which combines the traditional routines and modern movements, and is rich in the flavor of Argentina,” said Mariano Alvarez Wagner, second secretary at the Embassy of the Argentine Republic in Beijing, as the company gave a small demonstration at the embassy on Tuesday.

“Tango dancers usually start basic dance training at a very young age and then focus on tango. Our show features traditional routines and innovative steps by the dancers,” says leading dancer Hugo Patyn, whose partner is his lover Celina Rotundo.

“Many dancers have long-time regular partners so they can collaborate very well. And the chemistry between the partners in dance sometimes turns into love.”

Last, but by no means least, I would suggest you see the “classic trio of ballets of Tchaikovsky”, by the Russian National Ballet – Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker. These are a constant feature of the New Year holiday and if you only see Swan Lake once in your life, it’s best if you choose a reputable ballet company.

Too many so-called Russian companies tour Beijing with Swan Lake every year. The Russian National Ballet is not as famous as the Kirov or Bolshoi, but it is working hard to rise above the second tier and its performance has real Russian energy and passion.

*Original article first appeared on China Daily

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