Ballet made its debut in China in early 19th century Shanghai. China had suffered a blow during the Opium War, and Shanghai had its beginnings in an age of both humiliation and development. Western powers established concessions (¡ªleased territories¡ª) in this city. The Russian immigrants held ballet performances and opened ballet schools.
Madam Dai Ailian, born in 1916, was an overseas Chinese. After studying at one of London's renowned dance academies, she returned to her homeland in 1940. Dai Ailian employed a basic ballet training method for her students. Today there is a bust of Dai Ailian on display at the British Royal Dance Academy to honor her contribution to popularizing this art.
After the new People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the former Soviet Union sent several ballet troupes to visit the mainland. Their performances helped to familiarize Chinese audiences with this art form. As a by-product of the political relationship of the two countries at the time, Russian ballet began to exert a positive influence on China's local talent.
In 1954, the first professional center for studying dance¡ªThe Beijing Dance School (later known as The Beijing Dance Academy)¡ªwas established in China. Ballet experts from the former Soviet Union¡ªYealina and Gusev¡ªwere the school's artistic directors, and trained the first group of Chinese ballet students. The year 1957 saw 'swans' dancing on a Chinese stage: the performance of the classic Swan Lake indicated that ballet had formally entered the stage in this country.
The New China first focused on introducing traditional western ballets. In the 60's, Chinese artists began to explore the idea of combining western ballet technique with Chinese themes. The results, one 'red,' and one 'white', are now standard repertoire for Chinese ballet artists: 'The Red Detachment of Women,' and 'The White-haired Girl.'
China stepped into a unique historical period¡ªthe Cultural Revolution. Ballet was first classified and criticized as 'the weed of capitalism.' But later, when this art form was discovered as a tool that could promote political ideologies, ballet grew rapidly in popularity.
National Ballet of China
Now we come to the National Ballet of China, which was founded in 1959 and now ranks among the world's top 10 ballet companies.