White Haired Girl
HK Cultural Centre Grand Theatre
Shanghai Ballet, considered the mainland's leading company after the National Ballet of China, made a long-overdue appearance in Hong Kong in the 1960s Cultural Revolution icon White Haired Girl, presented by the China Ethnic & Folk Culture and Arts Exchange Association.
White Haired Girl and Red Detachment of Women are the most famous ballets to have emerged from the Cultural Revolution. Works of propaganda typical of that period, their main interest to global audiences is historical.
Dramatically, White Haired Girl is hampered by the crudeness of its propaganda (it ends with a red sun rising and a song in praise of Chairman Mao) and a narrative flow constantly interrupted by characters stopping to strike revolutionary poses. Choreographically it's a hybrid between textbook classical ballet and Chinese opera - an interesting idea unimaginatively executed. The insertion of 19th century-style virtuoso solos at moments of emotion jars on anyone used to the realism of modern dance-drama.
The title role is split between two ballerinas, one as the young Xier and the other as the vengeful White Haired Girl.
Fan Xiaofeng and Wu Husheng are both tall, good-looking dancers and gave performances long on technique but short on expressiveness.
Shanghai Ballet has well-trained dancers and a good technical standard. It also has a varied classical and contemporary repertoire. We hope to see the troupe in work which gives a better idea of its true style and quality.