An Interview with Shanghai Ballet’s Artistic Director, Xin Lili

This weekend, Dance St. Louis presents

SHANGHAI BALLET in THE BUTTERFLY LOVERS

The prestigious international ballet company comes to St Louis for the first time to perform the Chinese cersion of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

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I had the honor of posing a few questions to the Artistic Director of Shanghai Ballet, Xin Lili in anticipation of their St. Louis debut. Our conversation gave me a wonderful insight into the company, what to expect this weekend, and why dance is valuable to audiences across all cultures today.

JR Please tell me about your path to becoming the Artistic Director of Shanghai Ballet. Were you a dancer first?

butt9XL: Yes, I was a dancer for 21 years. I have been very fortunate to make the transition from dancer to choreographer to Artistic Director. I’m very dedicated and have worked hard to achieve my goals, but I do it for my love of dance.

JR: Please describe the aesthetic of Shanghai Ballet. What qualities do you look for in dancers?

butt1XL: The Shanghai Ballet is an elegant company with the charm of southern China clearly visible. We choose dancers who have the correct body type, have a strong stage presence and who are devoted to dancing.

JR: On your website, ‘The Butterfly Lovers’ is described as a ‘folk-styled’ ballet. How is this different from other classical repertoire?

butt4XL: ‘Folk-styled’ means the story is based on an old Chinese folk story. However, the dancing is classical ballet.

JR: Shanghai Ballet recently enjoyed a successful tour of the U.S. with ‘the Butterfly Lovers’. what is your opinion makes this ballet so favorable with audiences?

butt8XL: The story itself is lovely, the true love between the heroes touch the emotions of audiences the world over. The theme is universal. Plus our production has the ‘4 beauties’ which are our talented dancers, stunning costumes, beautiful scenery, and wonderful music.

JR: Is this ballet reflective of Chinese culture and ideals? If so, how?

butt6XL: Yes, it expresses the desire that women want to have the freedom of equality in choosing whom they will love.

JR: What do you love a bout dance, and ballet specifically? How are you inspired?

XL: I started dancing at the age of 10. As a student, both Margot Fonteyn and Baryshnikov, came to our school in Shanghai. I was enamored by both of these great dancers and I fell completely in love with ballet. I am inspired by music, literature ad life, all of which can be expressed through the beauty of dance.

JR: Do you enjoy touring with the company? What have been some of your favorite places to visit for a performance?

butt2XL: Yes, I love touring with my Company. I have too many favorite places to name.

JR: Why is dance important for society today? What can people gain from going to see dance?

XL: People come to see the dance for different reasons. I guess what they desire is to experience different emotions and the beauty of life.

JR: Classical ballet is an art form deeply rooted in tradition. Which is more important for dancers today, tradition or progression?

butt3XL: Both are equally important to the dancers. Classical ballet is an excellent way for the dancers to maintain the quality of their dancing, but modern choreography is exciting, fresh and provides the opportunity for dancers to perform different roles. Normally a modern piece is a good way to show the characteristics of one company. blbl1

The Butterfly Lovers tells the story of a young woman named Zhu, who disguises herself as a man to obtain admittance to school. She falls in love with the schoolmaster Liang, but her betrothal to the evil and violent Ma complicates her feelings for Liang. In a jealous rage, Ma kills Liang when he attempts to intervene and profess his love for Zhu. How will it end for Zhu? Come to the show and find out!

Touhill Performing Arts Center November 8 (8 PM) and 9 (2 PM matinée, 8 PM) , 2013

Don’t forget the Free Pre-show program- the Marjorie Orgel ‘Speaking of Dance’ series in the Terrace Lobby at 7:15 PM prior to the 8 PM show and at 1:15 prior to the matinee. Dance St. Louis Artistic Director Michael Uthoff will host.

Tickets can be purchased at the Dance St. Louis box office, via phone, or by visiting dancestlouis.org  Price range: $35-55

This is a special opportunity to view one of the world’s premier international ballet companies and one of only five companies from China. Don’t miss out!

Come out of your cocoon and enjoy all of the beauty that Shanghai Ballet’s ‘the Butterfly Lovers’ has to offer. See you this weekend at the Touhill! xo- Jess

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