Purcell Room, London
The Beijing-based choreographer offers a fascinating reappraisal of a propagandist ballet
In the first years of China’s Cultural Revolution, there were only eight “model plays” that were officially sanctioned by the regime and performed again and again across the country: five operas, two ballets and a symphony. One of those ballets, The Red Detachment of Women, about a peasant girl’s rise in the communist army, is now the subject of a contemporary appraisal in Beijing-based choreographer Wen Hui’s Red.
It’s a fascinating story that Wen tells through filmed interviews with former dancers and audience members, and movement and narration from herself and a cast of three. We hear of revolutionary dancers getting their ballet shoes stuck in the mud performing for rural workers, being told to “be filled with class hatred” while doing broadsword practice, and to use revolutionary mottos – “fear neither hardship nor death” – to get through the excruciating pain of pointe work. We also hear of young army officers, starved of female contact, who may not have had revolution on their minds when a troupe of leggy young ballerinas arrived to spread Mao’s message.
At the Purcell Room, London, until 5 October.
Link : Wen Hui: Red review – China’s Cultural Revolution revisited