The Red Dress | China Ningbo Performance & Arts Group Photos – Belinda Strodder

There is a nuanced charm to China Ningbo Performance & Arts Group's ballet, The Red Dress. Not your typical romantic European ballet, The Red Dress brims with emotive dance, gentle grace and a large amount of humour. Focussing on a pair of young lovers, sweethearts since they were children, The Red Dress delves into ancient Chinese folk customs, and all the sincerity and joy that comes with these stunning traditions. Director Wan Xiaoying (Deputy Director of the National Theatre of China) brings the stage to life with bright silken costumes with not a tutu in sight.

The first act is an energetic array of childish games, flirtation and fun that at time grates on the senses with a high-pitched soundtrack that distracts from the action on stage. The second act delivers a far more powerful production, drawing the audience in completely with an incredible and emotional performance by Cheng Lin (Y’ue’er) as a young woman with an unbounded love. Not content with being simply technically brilliant, Xiaoying has chosen a dancer with incredible acting chops as well. 

Whilst the second act outstrips the first in storytelling and choreography, the constant distraction of subtitles explaining the story well... distracted from the emotion of the piece. The poorly translated Chinese subtitles sent giggles throughout the audience at times in what should have a poignant moment of the characters journey. There is no doubt that Lin was the star of the piece and the 45 piece chorus seems to fade into the background in her presence. Partnered beautifully by – Zeng Ming as Yue’ers lover and best friend (Ayong) who goes abroad to find his fortune leaving his sweetheart behind to anxiously await his return. Ming keeps his cool throughout a myriad of turns and impresses with his acrobatic abilities. A final twist in the story line is exactly what sets the China Ningbo Performance & Arts Group apart from its European counterparts and is beautifully executed by Ming and Yin.

The Red Dress, whilst not quite what I was expecting had the power to move its audience with raw performances and bittersweet sorrow.

China Arts and Entertainment Group (CAEG) presents
The Red Dress 
China Ningbo Performance & Arts Group

Venue: Palais Theatre |  Lower Esplanade, St Kilda 
Dates: March 10 &11, 2015
Tickets: $24 – $70
Bookings: | 136 100

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