Ballet: The pirate of Liaoning

The ballet company from China performs ‘Le Corsaire’.

January 12, 2017 18:24
3 minute read.
The ballet company from China

The ballet company from China performs ‘Le Corsaire’. (photo credit: ZHANG XUNCHAO)

The year that Israel and China established diplomatic relations, Zijiao Qu was dancing the lead role in the Liaoning Ballet of China’s production of Le Corsaire. In 1992, performing an international ballet in China was an unusual occurrence. In her many years as a principal dancer of the newly formed troupe, Qu has had the opportunity to dance in many seminal ballet productions, such as Swan Lake and La fille mal gardee.

Over the years, she watched as China slowly relaxed its borders, opening itself to influences from all over the globe. She came to recognize the importance of balance between preserving one’s roots and embracing new traditions.

Today, Qu is the artistic director of the Liaoning Ballet, which will come to Israel with the newly revived version of Le Corsaire. When Liaoning performs on the stage of the Herzliya Performing Arts Center, it will mark 161 years since Le Corsaire premiered in Paris. The Liaoning Ballet’s version, as well as nearly every modern rendition of Le Corsaire, is drawn from the revival of legendary choreographer and ballet master Marius Petipa, which was first seen in St. Petersburg in 1858.

“The Liaoning Ballet of China has presented many productions of Chinese ballets, such as The Last Emperor, Moon over the Pond and The Butterfly Lovers,” Qu says. “With that, we recognize that we must present the Chinese audience with classic repertoire from other nations.

In the past few years, we have presented many important international ballets. Le Corsaire is a classic ballet of the highest standard, and we are honored to present it. I really love this production!” Perhaps thanks to Qu’s insistence on a diverse repertoire, the Liaoning Ballet’s audience has grown more accepting of new choreographic ideas and productions. The company recently relocated to a new facility, which provides a home to the 70 dancers of the company, as well as 500 students.

“We moved about two months ago,” says Qu. “Our new space has two theaters and 18 rehearsal studios. This year, including the move, has presented us with many challenges, artistic and managerial. Our goal is to expand the company and to broaden our touring schedule.”

Qu is known for spending long hours in the studio, working intensively with her dancers.

Keeping in mind that every classical dancer’s days on stage are numbered, Qu encourages her dancers to think ahead and to develop skills that will serve them the day after they take their final leap in the limelight.

“I place a great deal of importance on the professional development of my dancers. That means production, direction, acting and coaching sports and dance. Because, as we know, at some point in every dancers’ life, they will have to find a new direction,” she explains.

Having spent countless days in their (pointe) shoes, she is able to identify their difficulties, strengths, weaknesses and needs.

“I love being in the studio with the young dancers, watching them grow, bringing them new productions that challenge them. That really is the best part of my job,” she says.

Though an expert in the ballet field, Qu likes to keep an eye trained on other dance forms. In fact, she mentions an affinity for the Israeli dance esthetic.

“This is the first time that our company will travel to Israel, and it’s a big honor for us. I have watched as the Israeli dance community has grown and developed and am very impressed by the technical level of modern dance. We hope to forge a connection with local audiences that will go beyond this one trip,” she says.

The Liaoning Ballet of China will perform on January 21 to 24 at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center (; January 26 at the Beersheba Performing Arts Center (; January 28 at the Haifa Congressional Center ( For more information about the company, visit story (Zhang Xunchao)

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