The Swedish Ambassador to China, Lars Fredén, recently participated in a Chinese production of the ballet The Nutcracker.
In December The National Ballet of China revived their version of Chaikovsky’s “ Nutcracker”. Recently the ballet was performed once again, this time at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, in popular parlance “The Egg”, close to Tian’anmen.
The story of this Nutcracker is set during the Chinese New Year, rather than Christmas as in the original. Among the characters is “a foreigner” who comes to visit a Chinese family. It is he who brings the nutcracker (in the shape of a toy) which has given the ballet its name.
– They needed a foreigner and I was given the chance, says the ambassador.
– I’m interested in ballet and I know some of the people in the company since my previous posting in Beijing ten years ago. I can assure everybody that I didn’t dance, something I am manifestly unable to do. But I had to be on the right square meter at the right beat. Not completely trivial.
It was fascinating to see first hand how a professional performance evolves. From rehearsals in an empty room to the actual show with sets, costumes, make-up, lights and orchestra.
Classical ballet, perhaps one of the most quintessential of Western art forms, came to China from the Soviet Union in the mid 1950’s. China has five big ballet companies, somewhat depending on how you count. The National Ballet is the country’s largest. Today, it is world class.
– It was impressing to see how hard the dancers work, says the ambassador. A privilege to take part.