Press Conference & Review: The Legend of Mulan

Article By Alison Ng

With just four intimate engagements, the Hong Kong Dance Company presented its production of the Legend of Mulan at the David H. Koch Theater from March 5th – March 8th. While the production has received much praise in Asia, the limited engagement at Lincoln Center marked its U.S. debut.

The spectacular dance drama is based off the Chinese poem “The Ballad of Mulan.” It tells the story of a young woman who disguises herself as a man, in order to take her father’s place in the army. Although Mulan fought hard for many years and gained much respect, she gave up a position at court to return home.

On March 5th, just hours before the curtains opened, the Hong Kong Dance Company held a press conference for the Legend of Mulan. The short performance featured the three principle dancers of the show Pan Lingjuan (Mulan), Chen Jun (General), and Huang Lei (Father), while the interviews that followed were with Pan Lingjuan and Huang Lei.

In an empty David H. Koch Theater, various press outlets were given a sneak preview of the performance. With cameras ready, the stage opened up to a simple, yet elegant mountain set. The first scene shown, “Years of Unending Wars,” depicts Mulan and her fellow soldiers during battle. It is an exciting piece – or should I say pieces, with many movements, and many movements happening all at once. The breathtaking thing about dance is that the medium allows the body to convey any story, even when that story is war.

The second movement shown was “Fighting in the place of Father.” With news of war, Mulan makes the decision to join the army in place of Father. But first, she must face Father, who doesn’t want her to go. “Fighting in the place of Father” is a strong piece. The beautiful dance embodies many emotions: yearning, desperation, and love. The audience’s passive watching is quick to surrender as feelings take over.

After the preview, there was a dress and photo opportunity with the two principal dancers, Pan Lingjuan and Huang Lei. The two performers artfully positioned themselves on the second floor of the Theater where costumes from the show were displayed. Since they were in the midst of dress rehearsals, the two only entertained the press for a few minutes before heading back off to practice.

Later that evening, the HK Dance Company finally premiered the Legend of Mulan. And right from the beginning, one knows that Pan Lingjuan is talented because she depicts Mulan beautifully.

While there are three principle dancers, there are a few scenes that showcase the entire ensemble. Either way, the dancers were not able to fully express their talent, due to the repetition of movements during scenes. Once in a while, there was variance – such as a flip, that excited things a bit more.
The second act, which displays the army in battle, is the most entertaining. The dancers use different props – like shields, sticks, and ramps in their routine, to better represent the never-ending movements and chaos that come with war.

Instead of hearing or reading “The Ballad of Mulan,” the HK Dance Company’s performance allows one to visually experience Mulan’s story. As a dance, a whole new level of experience is added to the original tale. In the end, there is magic in the ability of transforming words into other mediums because it creates an aesthetic that one cannot ignore.

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