Chinese dancer plays star role in adaptation of Ibsen's work
The theater adaptation of the classic play The Lady from the Sea by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in 1888, which is co-produced by Norway's Kilden Theater and Chinese dancer-choreographer Wang Yabin, premiered in the playwright's hometown, Fjaereheia, Norway, on July 10. It was staged 10 times at the outdoor venue.
About 800 people watched the play's premiere, following the story of a lighthouse-keeper's daughter, named Ellida, who has to decide whether to stay on land with her husband, a successful doctor, or leave her stable life for a sailor she loves.
Wang plays Ellida, portraying the character's inner conflicts and her longings through her dance movements.
Three Chinese dancers from Wang's team, Peng Ying, Liu Qiqi and Fan Xiaoyu, are also part of the play.
The production also features a variety of other elements, including a real pool of water and a live piano performance.
"The play was staged in the outdoors, and we performed till midnight," recalls Wang. "The artists easily got into the mood of the story, which was an exciting experience for us."
Wang adds that she received the invitation to perform in Norway from Kilden Theater last year and spent 41 days on choreography.
Before inviting Wang to join the play, the play's director Brigit Amalie Nilssen watched Wang's work, Qing Yi, or Moon Opera, which was adapted from a Chinese novel written by Bi Feiyu, and An Individual Soliloquy, which brings to life the journey of the Buddhist monk and scholar, Kumarajiva (344-413).
Nilssen was impressed by Wang's choreography and performance in the play. "Her choreography is smooth, beautiful and powerful. She brings out a combination of classic and contemporary elements onstage as well as bringing in a unique aesthetics from the East," he says.
Wang says Ibsen's plays are wildly popular in China, including A Doll's House and An Enemy of the People, which have been adapted into Chinese plays by established theaters, such as Beijing People's Art Theatre and the National Centre for the Performing Arts.
"When Ibsen wrote The Lady from the Sea, he was 60 years old. And during his exile in Germany and Italy, he longed for the sea," Wang says.
"This year marks the 130th anniversary of the first production of the play in 1889. And the best way to pay tribute to this great writer is to keep his works alive in the contemporary theater scene."
Wang, who was born and raised in Tianjin, started learning traditional Chinese folk dance at the age of 6. She is a graduate of the Beijing Dance Academy and is best known for a dance sequence in Zhang Yimou's 2004 movie House of Flying Daggers and her performances at CCTV's Spring Festival galas.
International collaboration is a driving force in Wang's choreographic productions.
Since 2009, Wang, 35, has brought together dancers from around the world to take part in her annual production, Yabin and Her Friends.
Among the international artists she has worked with are Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, choreographer Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish and Japanese choreographer Shintaro Hirahara.
In 2016, Wang was invited by Tamara Rojo, a former prize-winning ballerina and now artistic director of the English National Ballet, to be one of three female choreographers of a female-themed dance project for the English National Ballet program. Titled She Said, the dance work, which opened at Sadler's Wells Theatre in London in April 2016, won the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance, an annual award presented by the Society of London Theatre in recognition of achievements in British theater.