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BWW Reviews: THE LEGEND OF MULAN Makes Beautiful US Debut

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For only four performances at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, China Arts and Entertainment Group presented the first US performance of the Hong Kong Dance Company's The Legend of Mulan. Based on a folk poem of a young woman fighting in the Chinese army in place of her ill father, this beloved legend was brought to life through dramatic presentation and incredible, jaw-dropping physical feats.

The performance began with the recitation of the poem by a woman and young children. As their voices faded out in the darkness, the scene began to unfold, revealing majestic mountains that filled the stage. The ensemble was strong from the moment they stepped onto the stage. With a great emphasis on synchronization, precision, and symmetry, the circular movement of arms in cannon created kaleidoscopic illusions that mesmerized the audiences. The music heightened the drama and the despair as couples danced together before the men headed to war. It was a beautiful opening and set the tone of what was to be expected for the rest of the performance.

Mulan, played by the beautiful Pan Lingjuan, stood out from the ensemble as her limbs waded through space and time, expressing tremendous grace and beauty. The quality of dance by this young woman was extraordinarily stunning, a rare blend of subtle elegance and profound drama. Her movement came from within, noted by the dense quality of every extension (extensions that often went far past 180 degrees!). Her dancing was highlighted especially in her duets with Chen Jun (General) and Huang Lei (Father), both who were equally strong in their movement and dramatization. In particular, the father and daughter duet was remarkably touching, enough to touch the hearts of the fathers with daughters present in the audience.

Synchronization, symmetry, and dramatic essence remained consistent as the male half of the company took on the role of the army. Sweeping arms were replaced with acrobatic stunts that progressed in difficulty, agility, and execution. Astonishing jumps and flips with such gravity-defying heights came one after the other as the ensemble performed them in cannon; the audience had to remember to breathe for not just one but many moments. Their leg extensions would make any dancer jealous, and their precision and cool with each step was haunting, making the war scenes much more commanding of the audience's attention.

Immediately following the rousing war sequence was a much more tender presentation, where the women performed a traditional Chinese dance that included shuffling feet and whimsical arm movements. Even in lighting and costuming, it was a stark contrast but added to the complexity and theatricality of the portrayal of Mulan. It was light and warm, a real treat for the audience.

The US debut of The Legend of Mulan showcased the company's commitment to upholding such a rich and diverse tradition. But of course, such a tradition could have only been portrayed by such talented and dynamic artists. It was truly a delightful cultural immersion for the audience and one sure to be experienced by many others for years to come.


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From This Author Jessica Abejar

Jessica Abejar is an artist with a love of storytelling. As a dancer/choreographer, she most recently performed at World Youth Day in Brazil, where she (read more...)