The Butterfly Lovers' An elegant yet tragic Chinese love story performed by the amazing Shanghai Ballet


“The Butterfly Lovers” which is a beautiful yet tragic Chinese love story, comparable to “Romeo and Juliet” in the West, was performed by the amazing Shanghai Ballet in the Tryon Festival Theater of the Krannert Center for Performing Arts this January 29, 2020.

-Written by Weon Taek Na

A large audience forms a line to enter the Tryon Festival Theater to watch The Shanghai Ballet perform The Butterfly Lovers

The Shanghai Ballet told the beautiful yet traggic love story, “The Butterfly Lovers”, utilizing elegant and mesmerizing choreography and music. In particular the story focuses on the the lovers, Liang and Zhu, who are forced to separate despite their love for each other. The performers do not speak, and yet their elegant movements which are composed of tiptoes and spins and jumps across the large stage convey the love story efficiently, elegantly, and beautifully. As the dance sequences convey to the audience the minds of Liang and Zhu as well as the other characters of the story, the audience become mesmerized into the movement of the ballet’s performance. In particular there is much push and pull in the dance performances which convey the unfortunate circumstances of Liang and Zhu; the couple are always pushed apart, despite their effort to pull each other together. Furthermore, the tense standoffs between the protagonists and antagonists are efficiently conveyed through heart felt music which drop upon the audience.

My ticket for the play

In addition to the movements and music, another important aspect of ballet is the costumes, i.e., aesthetics. The costumes are an essential element in a ballet performance as the costumes help drive the story . Personally, I extremely enjoyed the wedding dress that Zhu wore during the performance. It is known that the brides in traditional Chinese weddings were required to a phoenix crown. As such, Zhu also wears a phoenix crown with beautiful adornments attached.

The view of the stage from my seat before the performance begins

“The Butterfly Lovers” performance is composed of four acts: 'In School', 'Farewell', 'Against Marriage' and 'Transforming into butterflies'. The four acts together convey the love story of Liang and Zhu; how the lovers meet, fall in love, and the troubles they meet during their love story. My favorite act was the third act “Against Marriage”. “Against Marriage” is a very intense and dramatic act which conveys the deep despair that Zhu feels as she is unfortunately married to the school bully instead of Liang. Moreover, this sad occurrence is further intensified as she fights with the school bully and moreover her father. In the end, Liang is defeated and the portrayal of Liang’s defeat by the dances is powerfully portrayed.

In final thought, “The Butterfly Lovers” was a beautiful story and the way that the Shanghai Ballet Group interpreted and performed it was extraordinary. I was more than impressed and would definitely recommend it to anyone in the area.

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