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15 May 2019 (Wed), 19:00 Brilliant Classical Stanislavsky Ballet and Opera theatre (established 1887, founded by Stanislavsky) - Modern Ballet Patrick de Bana "ECHOES OF ETERNITY". Shanghai Ballet Company

Schedule for Patrick de Bana "ECHOES OF ETERNITY". Shanghai Ballet Company 2020

Premiere of this production: July 2015, Shanghai

Inspired by Bai Juyi’s ancient Chinese poem “Song of Everlasting Sorrow” which tells the story of the doomed romance between the Lady Yang (Qi Bingxue) and the all-powerful Chinese Emperor Tang Xuanzong (Wu Husheng) from its inception to its tragic conclusion. The Shanghai Ballet have put together a very contemporary version of the story, with a libretto by Jean Francois Vazelle and a wonderfully eclectic score that includes some really powerful music from Henryk Gorecki, Armand Amar and Philip Glass.

In the framework of the XIV International Theater Festival. A.P. Chekhov (Chekhov Festival) The Shanghai Ballet will acquaint the Moscow audience with one of its best works. On the stage of Stanislavsky Theater will be shown "Echo of Eternity" ballet. The legend of the emperor's romantic and at the same time tragic love for his concubine has survived hundreds of interpretations. Now it is presented for the first time by means of modern ballet, and this innovative decision can be seen by the metropolitan public.


Choreographer: Patrick de Bana.

Music: Armand Amar, Ravid Goldschmidt, Kodo, Henryk Górecki & Philip, Glass.

The duration of the ballet with an interval: 135 minutes.


The fascinating legend about an Emperor Xuanzong and his fatal attraction to the beloved concubine Yang Guifei is one of the "eternal plots", which had hundreds of interpretations. However, the famous European choreographer Patrick de Bana for the first time presents the classics of ancient Chinese literature through modern ballet. A romantic and tragic story of love, which was sacrificed to the duty, turned into a bright dance extravaganza, real poetry in motion.

Patrick de Bana is one of the world's most cosmopolitan choreographers, with a fantastic sense of time and style. He was born in Germany, studied dance in Hamburg under the direction of John Neumeier, was a soloist of the Béjart Ballet Lausanne, the leading soloist of the National Theatre of Dance in Madrid under the direction of Nacho Duato. In 2003 he founded the “Nafas Dance Company” in Valencia. He created many choreographic compositions for artists and companies around the world.


Ballet as an art form more than any other draws its inspiration from literature, and Shanghai Ballet’s newest production Echoes of Eternity is no exception. Based on the eighth-century poem The Song of Everlasting Regret, the ballet tells the story of the tragic romance between Emperor Ming and his consort, Lady Yang. The curtain opened to a completely bare stage – no wings, no backdrop, no decoration of any kind – with the Lady Yang standing alone. A refreshing change; this hyper minimalistic set allowed the audience to focus solely on the dancers in the prologue of the ballet. However, there perhaps should have been some distraction, as the entrances of the Moon Fairy and Emperor Ming established an interpretive dance style that was not favoured by the audience. The Moon Fairy, in particular, was given incredibly confusing choreography. An omniscient presence, she flitted in and out of the action seemingly without purpose, sometimes channelling The Dying Swan, and at other times contorting her body as someone possessed. Her style shifted from classical to modern so often that you were left wondering whether she was a good omen, a bad one, or just a fairy floating around as she pleased.

The great romance between the Emperor and Lady Yang, the driving force of the poem, the alleged cause of the fall of the Tang Dynasty, was given surprisingly little stage time. They were given a couple of pas de deux in the first act – in which Wu Husheng and Qi Bingxue gave beautiful performances – but fifteen minutes of dancing in an hour-long act simply isn’t enough time to build a romance. The audience barely had time to form an attachment to the couple, so much so that when Lady Yang died in Act Two the scene lost most of its power (this doesn’t count as a spoiler – she died 1300 years ago). The first act was instead filled with scenes from the court and the army training for battle. The court scenes managed to fill a large amount of time with very little dancing, and their only purpose seemed to be to give stage time to the female corps de ballet. The training scenes were equally disappointing. The soldiers were supposed to be in perfect unison, however, they were so out of time that the dance felt more like a number from Disney’s Mulan than an homage to the notorious precision of the Chinese Armies.

The second act was unfortunately not much better. The first half of the act is dedicated to the battle between the Imperial army and the rebelling forces. Typically, fight scenes provide the opportunity for some incredible choreography, but this was unfortunately not the case in Echoes of Eternity. The two armies are led by Chen Xuanli (Imperial) and An Lushan (Rebel), who frequently came to blows in their own pas de deux. Wu Bin and Zhang Wenjun were given the opportunity to demonstrate their power as dancers, however choreographer Patrick de Bana decided that a chest bump would be the most effective way to portray their fight – indeed it became the favoured move in all of their fights. The armies followed suit and were given quite frankly ridiculous choreography. The epic battle between the Rebels and Imperial army was depicted by the male corps running (again out of time) from one side of the stage to the other. The armies would square up, charge through each other, and recover to repeat going the other way. The absurd choreography continued for so long that it became humorous, with many audience members smothering laughs.

The death of Lady Yang – the emotional climax of the ballet – was equally confusing. The emperor and Lady Yang share a final pas de deux where he appears to be begging her to stay with him. There were some moments of true emotion, however, with the couple taking turns to chase each other around the stage, and the Moon Fairy once again doing her own thing, the whole scene became muddled and drawn out. Lady Yang is finally given a length of tulle with which she hangs herself, and the Emperor apparently dies from grief. It wasn’t until I researched the poem after the performance that this scene made any sense. In the original story, the Emperor is forced to order the death of his beloved concubine for the sake of his Empire, and she is taken away and strangled. The ballet does, however, reach a beautiful dénouement in which the couple are reunited in death. They share a single spotlight as glitter cascades down, creating a powerful final image to the ballet, which would have been truly moving had the romance been given space to breathe.

Echoes of Eternity has one the most unique scores I have ever seen in ballet, with music from Henryk Górecki, Armand Amar, and Philip Glass, and the libretto (vocals) by Jean Francois Vazelle. The score was incredibly eclectic and felt more like the soundtrack to an epic film than to a ballet, but it was precisely this sound that created so much of the drama in the ballet. From the powerful war drums to the ethereal voice modulations, there has never been a ballet score like it. There were unfortunately many moments of deliberate silence, which felt forced and left the audience with nothing to do but listen to the squeaking of the dancers’ shoes. But, when the music was playing, it produced such a tangible atmosphere, that you felt you were about to witness something enormous.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Shanghai Ballet has some of the best dancers in the world, but Patrick de Bana’s choreography did not fully utilise their talent. The dancers did the best with what they had, but when the storytelling is lacking then it’s little more than dancers running around on a stage. This ballet had so much potential, but de Bana’s choreography simply didn’t do justice to the ancient poem.


Recommended age: 12+

Schedule for Patrick de Bana "ECHOES OF ETERNITY". Shanghai Ballet Company 2020

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