For the third year, China Arts and Entertainment Group is treating NYC dancegoers to an all-too-limited engagement of a lavish and exquisitely performed dance theater piece at the Koch Theater in Lincoln Center. Opening night of "The Red Dress" on Thursday March 6th 2014 will be followed by performances on the evenings of March 7th and 8th and a matinée on March 9th. Don't miss this chance to see superbly trained dancers, gorgeous costumes, immaculate ensemble work, ingenious stagecraft, and an enigmatic but satisfying story line. The title refers to the fact that Chinese brides traditionally wear red because it is a strong color that brings good luck. Yet the heroine of this drama seems never to have her dream wedding come true. The musical accompaniment includes some singing in Chinese but you won't need a translation to understand the plot. The universal language of dance tells all.
I saw the previous two NYC engagements of this wonderful company. Here are links to my reviews on DanceArt.com of those productions: "Silk Road" and "The Peony Pavilion". Again this year, I was especially taken with the classical Chinese technique of walking with a rolling action from heel to toe that makes the dancers look as though they're gliding. I was privileged to learn this technique at Chen and Dancers here in NYC and I subsequently taught it to schoolchildren when I was the Artistic Director of the arts-in-education company Ballet Ambassadors. I remain enthralled by this special form of locomotion. I think you will be, too.
In "The Red Dress", the lead roles of the young woman and her fiancé were superbly danced and acted by Cheng Lin and Zeng Ming. She moves with a liquid quality as if she were flowing from one movement to another while he tosses off astonishing mid-air feats as well as multiple turns that are so fast he almost blurs before your eyes. Better yet, they were utterly convincing as young lovers in a tender pas de deux with difficult lifts that they made look easy.
I also want to give special mention to the stage manager and crew. Thank you for a seamless job with complicated props, scenery, and dry ice fog. You are true professionals.
My only complaint is about the audience members who started applauding every time the lights dimmed even though music was still playing and action was clearly about to continue.
Oh, and the leading man lost his headdress as he came forward for the bows that were choreographed to music. He never looked back or broke his stride, which is what all performers are taught is the correct response to a mishap such as this one, but a corps boy in the back row saw fit to bend over and pick up the headdress and then - gasp! - try to hand it to Zeng Ming. To his credit, Zeng Ming swatted the headdress away as surreptitiously as possible. There's nothing quite like live theater, is there? No retakes, no edits. What you see is what you get. But what you'll see and what you'll get if you make it to the Koch for a performance during the rest of the run of "The Red Dress" will be unforgettable. I hope you do!