This wonderful ballet performance, The Butterfly Lovers, was performed by Shanghai Ballet in the Tryon Festival Theater on January 19, 2020. This is a traditional Chinese love story and touched tragedy. The main characters in this show, Liang and Zhu, did not get married at the end, but they became butterflies so that they can accompany each other forever.
Written by Bingchen Li
Ballet dancers use different movements to help audiences to understand what going on, so you will never hear a dialogue in a ballet show. In this wonderful performance, the most impressive movement used to exhibit emotion is when Zhu knew that her father had already arranged her marriage to Ma instead of her true love Liang, her body was really stiff. When Ma carried Zhu on his shoulders, Zhu had no movement just like a dead person. It is a vivid body language that audiences could feel her hopelessness. Also, in Act two, Farewell, audiences could see that all the animals live and play in pairs, and their movements are so energetic. With the description of vitality, audiences could feel the hits of the chemical reaction between those two youngsters.
My favorite outfit is Zhu’s wedding dress. Back in the old-time, the bride needs to wear a phoenix crown for the wedding. As we can see in the performance, Zhu also has a phoenix crown with fancy adornment on it, but you cannot see her smile when she wears it. We all know that brides will be happy and excited when they wearing a wedding dress normally. But what ironic is that, in my view, that elegant crown is like chains on her mind. She was chained to her conservative family; she was chained to her tragic marriage; she was chained to the feudal society; she was chained to the old ridiculous rules. That is why I call this story a Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet: conservative families need children’s marriage to maintain family status.
As for the ending, I really appreciate the end of The Butterfly Lovers. It is a “tragic happy ending” in my word. Unlike the traditional happy ending that Zhu and Liang will get rid of the chains and get married, in the end, they all come out of the cocoons and become butterflies so that they can live together forever. It means that they get rid of the chains in their own way. We can say that Zhu and Liang cannot be married is a tragedy, but they chase love even after the death– became butterflies– imply a positive meaning: Died for love.
This story actually was created by 1700 years ago, I can even imagine what a brave woman Zhu is. She dressed like a man and chased love actively, which is almost a taboo in ancient China. What a lovely story and touched ending!
At the End
One thing I want to mention at the end is the background music that is played by traditional Chinese instruments. Even though ballet is originally from western culture, the Butterfly Loves still combines two different cultures perfectly.
The Butterfly Lovers is a traditional Chinese love story, and I highly recommend you guys to watch this show with your loved one. I bet you will enjoy it. Really impressive performance.