If you think The Rockettes, Radio City’s legendary dance company, hold the only key to high-impact precision movement, think again. It might not be obvious to compare the China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater to the Rockettes, but in terms of size and scope of its recently presented dance drama, Confucius, there are some similarities.
No, Confucius doesn’t offer kick lines. But director/choreographer Ms. Kong Dexin (a 77th generation direct descendent of Confucius himself) knows a lot about moving around a crowd. The cast of 55 performers often glides along the David H. Koch Theater stage at Lincoln Center as if they were on ice, with swooping silk costumes flowing in their wake. Syncopated sections also emerge in the six-section dance drama, as Confucius (brilliantly danced by the athletic Hu Yang) imparts his code of ethics among the empire.
“Inquiry,” “The Chaotic Time,” “Out of Food,” “Great Harmony,” “Mourning for Benevolence,” and “Happiness” offer a loose structure, but don’t expect a linear plot. Instead, appreciate Yang, along with the pristine movement of Tang Shiyi as the Concubine, and the rest of the regimented cast.
The National Opera & Dance Drama Theater was established in 1950 and since its inception has performed more than 100 operas and dance dramas. Part of China Arts and Entertainment Group, the cultural exchange initiative seeks to introduce traditional and contemporary Chinese performing arts to audiences around the world.
Those looking to invigorate their theatergoing experience beyond Broadway will find Confucius a dynamic evening of athletic performance and a welcome exploration of cultural expression.