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REVIEW | The Peony Pavillion | National Ballet of China

The National Ballet of China bring a production of The Peony Pavillion that is captivatingly stunning, and technically precise.

Known for their original style, the National Ballet of China have a distinct concept of movement and creation in their productions. Created with far east influences, combined with contemporary staging, it introduces a modern audience to a classic Chinese tale. The blend of classical western ballet with traditional Chinese instruments, gives the piece a timely feel.

The Peony Pavillion is sometimes referred to as the Chinese Romeo and Juliet. It tells the story of a young girl Du Liniang who falls asleep and dreams of falling in love with a young scholar named Liu Mengmei. It’s a story of love against all odds, and the passion exudes through the performer’s sublime movement and emotional intensity.

Founded in 1959, the National Ballet of China are a world-renowned company that are hugely influential in the dance industry. Their combination of styles create striking performances that are of the highest quality. Their ensemble is beautifully in sync, and it almost appears unreal as they move so effortlessly as one. A stand-out moment being the final ensemble scene as the dancers create a sea of colour on stage as they gracefully move across the stage in flowing red dresses.

Du Liniang is the elegant lead in the production, who faces desire and anguish which is executed remarkably through movement. With the interjection of vocals from the Flower Goddess Liniang, who sets the tone of the production with her traditional Chinese sounds.


Throughout the production we are taken through the lavish colourful dreamworld and the darkness of the underworld. The depiction of light and shade is portrayed excellently through both the juxtaposition of movement and powerful lighting. Similarly, Guo Wenjing’s score is intricate and simplistic but significantly moves the piece forward.

The narrative of the piece is obscure, but it is the constant imagery that is at the core of the production. The division of the worlds and ongoing theme of sexual awakening, which is portrayed through the removal of pointe shoes and use of the bare foot. These themes ensure it is a thought-provoking production, as you constantly find yourself discovering the undertones of the story. The final pas-de-deux is moving, emotive and heated with fervent passion. As the two lovers move as one, it is an utterly fluent and compelling performance.

The Peony Pavillion is encapsulating and exquisitely delicate, with impeccable technique and majestic style, it is a mesmeric production.

On at the Lowry until the 26th of November, tickets can be found here.

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