The Shanghai Ballet, 'The Butterfly Lovers' in the Tryon Festival Theater of the Krannert Center for Performing Arts. Performed January 29, 2020.
Written by Jacob M. Rominger
On January 29, 2020, I was welcomed to a performance of The Butterfly Lovers by the Shanghai Ballet. As one not well-acquainted with ballet, I found myself enjoying fully the experience offered without hint of confusion.
Movement is the essential element to a ballet's performance, as the fanciful and musical retelling of the story is the aim of the experience. This is to say, one should not expect to encounter such a feature raw without understanding the story prior lest that person is seeking to solve a riddle. With a basic grasp of the story understood, the audience is free to enjoy the expressive retellings in a mode beyond a simple reading. The cast, without dialogue, make their intentions and meanings known through how they carry themselves on the stage and the emotions their movements evoke for the viewer. Take the case with Ma Wencai, whose personality is helped exhibited by his harsh, even clumsy dancing compared to the protagonists, Zhu and Liang, whos budding romance is exhibited by their movements so graceful they seem to be floating on air on their toes.
Costumes as well help drive the story, the butterfly ballerinas being my favorite. Their changing costumes help mark the changes in the seasons. Their ultimate polychromatic appearance towards the end of the performance fills the stage with a satisfying rainbow to cap off the tale.'
That said, my favorite Act is the Third, whereby Zhu is faced with a marriage to Ma. Unwilling, this creates the desperate scene of her frantic attempts to resist such an arrangement. Her stillness towards the end, when her dancing ceases, is followed further in the following act when she simply walks through her wedding procession. She is defeated, without even an emotion to express through dance.
The rest of my experience at the Krannert Center was extremely pleasant. Being a commuter, I drove myself into the garage space underneath that provided both ample parking but shielded me from the night's chill. With plenty of time to spare, I enjoyed my dinner in the cafe with a beer and salmon salad. I greatly enjoyed my seat on the upper balcony and felt no real distance from the performance, fully immersed by the second Act.
Sincerely, Jacob M Rominger