(photo credit: ZHANG XUNCHAO)
The China National Ballet of the northern province of Liaoning, with about 30 dancers, tried to fit on Herzliya’s medium-size stage, at a cost.
The quaint mid-nineteenth century story ballet Le Corsaire, based loosely on a poem by Lord Byron, never won the popularity of Swan Lake or the Nutcracker – for a reason. The music lack the appeal of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, the story is even more ludicrous than that of most ballets and choreographically though it went through endless renditions, its dramatic core remained too loose.
It is a story of a wrecked pirate ship whose surviving seamen were saved by a group of maidens, headed by Medora and Gulanda. Medora and chief pirate Conrad fall in love and find that their enemies are Turkish soldiers, exotic slave mongers, greedy merchants and a rich Pasha trying to get new stock for his harem. The girls are kidnapped, saved by pirates, kidnapped, saved again and so forth.
Each scene requires change of costumes, involving Persian robes, belly dancer outfits and Arabian kaftans, interlaced with tutus and pointe shoes. Someone recited the upcoming content before each scene, presuming the local audience would miss the turns and twists of this simplistic plot. A disturbing and redundant practice.
In the end, any classical ballet production succeeds or fails not on its set or costumes, but foremost on the quality of the dancing; technique, its finesse and the artistic achievement in its execution.
This particular rendition was tailored to suit the capabilities of the dancers. Some of the expected virtuoso feats were toned down while several group arrangements were too basic and lacked glamour. On the other hand, there were good moments by dancers in the roles of Medora, Gulnera and Ali, the slave boy. Conrad the pirate was charming and all the young female dancers won the audience over with their hearty smiles.