The Legend of Mulan: Liaoning Ballet brings Chinese story to the Merriam Theater

IMG_8303THE LIAONING BALLET OF CHINA is gearing up to take the stage at the Merriam Theater for a one night only performance, August 28, 2019. Coming directly from New York’s Lincoln Center, the company will present Hua Mulan. The program will blend classical and modern ballet to tell the story of a female general who disguised herself as a man to enlist in the army. Hua Milan defended her country for 10 years before returning home. 

Company members talk about the show and their upcoming performance at the Merriam Theater.

Debra Danese: What inspired you to tell the story of Hua Mulan through ballet?

Liaoning Ballet: Chinese ballet dancers have been seeking answers on how to tell Chinese stories through ballet, a Western art form rooted in Europe’s Renaissance period. We want to tell Chinese stories to global audiences and the legend of Mulan is one of the more relatable Chinese classics. Mulan’s heroic spirit, perseverance, and love for country and peace can resonate with people everywhere, adding that many European and American audiences are already familiar with her story.

DD: How many dancers make up the cast and how long was your rehearsal period?

LB: Our crew has a total of 65 people from China. This original ballet started in 2018 and there have been countless hours of rehearsal. We have over 40 performances and 15 more in US and Canada. 

DD: What can you tell us about the music and costume design?

LB: Hua Mulan ballet took three years to create. It incorporates classic and modern art elements that will suit the taste of today’s audiences in China and abroad. In terms of music, it makes a novel and bold attempt at combining Western orchestra with traditional Chinese musical instruments, including flute and the lute-like pipa. This new version of the Mulan story also incorporates modern ballet choreography with Chinese folk dances and martial arts.

DD: What are some of the biggest challenges of performing Hua Mulan?

LB: Besides the physical techniques required, Chinese ballet cares about portraying its characters’ inner world and expressing emotions. For the principle ballerina portraying Mulan, she had to become a man who is a woman. In order to complete that role, she had to do push-ups and fight with sticks on stage, just like the male dancers.

DD: Liaoning Ballet is also known for collaborating with international ballet masters. Why is this an important part of your repertoire?

LB: Chinese and ballet are not typically put together because ballet is a western art form. In order to be the best, you have to train with the best and collaborate with the best.

 

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About the author

Debra Danese

Debra graduated with a degree in dance from the University of the Arts and also holds a B.A. in Arts Administration. She is accredited at the Master Level with the National Registry of Dance Educators. Debra has performed in Europe, Tokyo, Canada, and the Caribbean. She teaches and choreographs world-wide and has been an international guest artist in Switzerland, England, and Slovakia. Debra has been an Artist in Residence on five occasions in Norway where she showcased full length dance productions at the acclaimed Nordland Theatre. She has also presented an original dance production at the Elspe Festival in Germany. Debra has been featured in Dance, Dancer and Dance Teacher Magazines for her work in dance education. Additionally, she has been a contributing writer for Dance Studio Life Magazine since 2010.