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[中][ENG] 專訪中國國家芭蕾舞團馮英-跨越文化與傳統 Leaping Across Cultures and Conventions: An Interview with Feng Ying

馮英於八十年代飾《天鵝湖》中的黑天鵝。Feng Ying as Black Swan in Swan Lake in the 1980s.

圖片由中芭提供 Photo provided by National Ballet of China

設計Design: Kay Leung, Stephen Chow@ARTZONE


Early this June, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, The National Ballet of China (NBC) visited Hong Kong with Giselle and a mixed bill, Ballet Gala. Tickets sold out quickly.


In recent years, NBC has made its presence known on the world stage. Its classical ballets, such as Swan Lake, have been acclaimed “world-class”, and continue to tour. The Company’s original works with rich Chinese cultural characteristics such as Raise the Red Lantern and The Peony Pavilion have generated vigorous discussion following their premières.


With Feng Ying as its current director and artistic director, China’s first ballet company, NBC, which was founded in 1959, has made its own way in negotiating the difficulties of producing work, both in keeping abreast of classical ballet’s footprints, and in staying open-minded to contemporary and modern productions.

中國國家芭蕾舞團團長馮英 Feng Ying, Director and Artistic Director of National Ballet of China

圖片由中芭提供 Photo provided by National Ballet of China



說起來,中芭與香港緣分匪淺,其中一齣戲寶《紅色娘子軍》就曾多次訪港演出,這次亦以選段表演再現舞台。馮英記起早年時該劇來港,自己仍是台上演員,當時觀眾反應出乎意外,「 非常爆」。「 一個藝術作品能夠充滿活力,可能就是因為有不同的人在演繹它,而且每個階段都有自己的特色。」芭蕾舞劇《紅色娘子軍》誕生於1964年,至今,時代迥異,劇中演員也經歷數代更迭,劇目卻仍經演不衰,足見其魅力。在馮英看來,每一代的創作者,都為作品注入了新的養分和時代特徵,今日的「 娘子軍」,既有首創時昂揚的精氣神,又有當代的時尚感,「帶有年輕人對那個故事深刻理解之後的二次創作,是鮮活的。」

There has been an enduring connection between NBC and Hong Kong. For instance, The Red Detachment of Women, one of NBC’s classic works, has been shown in Hong Kong many times. This time, audiences were given selected excerpts. Feng recalls that, in some of the earlier visits to Hong Kong while she was still one of the dancers on stage, she was surprised by the audience’s “very vigorous” reaction. “Perhaps, the vitality of an artwork lives in the different performances by different artists; each chapter has its own character.” The Red Detachment of Women premièred in 1964. Since then, times have changed but the work maintains its vibrancy, a solid proof of its appeal. Every generation of creators contributes new energy and the spirit of their times to the work. Today, The Red Detachment of Women bears the spirit of the original work, and it is also modern, “It carries the secondary creation by the young people who have an immense understanding of its story. Because of this, the story is alive."

《紅色娘子軍》The Red Detachment of Women

圖片由中芭提供 Photo provided by National Ballet of China

馮英於八十年代飾《紅色娘子軍》中的吳瓊花。 Feng Ying as Wu Qionghua in The Red Detachment of Women in the 1980s. 圖片由中芭提供 Photo provided by National Ballet of China

《紅色娘子軍》的故事發生在二十世紀三十年代的海南島,從惡霸南霸天家中逃出的丫鬟瓊花,在紅軍的幫助下,經過重重考驗,最終成長為堅定的革命戰士。這故事有著當時時代的鮮明印記,似乎離今日的生活很遙遠,但馮英認為,若只以「 樣板戲」或「 紅色經典」去理解該劇未免太過狹窄,劇中所表達的革命激情,放到今天仍然切中人生的命題。「 現在也要革命呀,要激情,要熱情,每個人要向自己的命運去抗爭。一個人在任何時候都有那種改變自己命運的訴求,不斷地奮鬥,不斷地改變命運,追求理想和信念,這其中更多的是這種精神的東西。我們在墨爾本演出時,有評論家曾說它其實是鼓勵一批年輕人更加有社會責任,他們是這樣來看這個劇的。它激發年輕人的力量和作用,不亞於當年米高・福金或者是瑪莎‧葛蘭姆對後人的影響。」

The story of The Red Detachment of Women takes place on Hainan Island in the 1930s. After escaping from the home of the despotic landlord Nan Batian, the maid Qionghua, with help from the Red Army, becomes a dedicated warrior after overcoming numerous challenges. The story had a strong impression on its era, which makes it seem distant from today’s lives. However, Feng Ying points out that it would be too narrow-minded for one to understand this work only from a ‘model drama’ or a ‘communist classic’ perspective. The passion for revolution expressed in the story still resonates with life issues encountered today. “We still need revolution today, we need passion, we need enthusiasm, everyone needs to contest his or her fate. A person can quest for change in his or her fate anytime, struggle endlessly, chase dreams and beliefs, more of it is on the spiritual level. When we were playing it in Melbourne, a commentator said that it was an encouragement for young people to take up more social responsibilities, they saw the story this way. And they also thought that it could ignite the power of, and have an impact on young people no less than Mikhail Fokine and Martha Graham’s influence on the younger generation.”


Compared to its content and spirit, the form of The Red Detachment of Women has an even greater potential. It established and opened-up the ‘Chinese-style ballet’, combining Western ballet with performance elements such as those from Chinese opera, martial arts, songs, and folk music. The works that came afterwards, including Song of the Yimeng Mountain, The New Year Sacrifice, Dream of the Red Chamber, Yellow River, Butterfly Lovers, The Chinese New Year, more recently Raise the Red Lantern, and The Peony Pavilion that amazed the world, and the latest ones like The Crane Whisperer; all are attempts to fuse Eastern and Western cultures.

跨越 Leaping

「 在我看來,所謂的民族特色就是東西方文化本來就屬於自己的特點。」馮英說:「 比如說西方文化崇尚上帝,於是人或者芭蕾藝術就是要不斷向上,是要和上帝交流。而我們中國則更多地是接近大地,我們的情懷更多的是大地呀,母親呀。我們的文化背景、文化習慣和生活習慣方方面面都不同。中華民族的情懷中講很多的包容,所謂『 仁義禮智信』那是傳統文化中我們的特色。」創造民族特色的芭蕾,是要把民族的氣節、歷史,或是當今中國的人文精神和人文情懷融入其中,透過作品表達中國、呈現時代。「 通過芭蕾這個國際化的語言,來向世人介紹我們的民族。」

"To me, what we call ‘ethnic characteristics’ means the characteristics that the Eastern and Western cultures possess," Feng Ying commented. “For example, Western culture worships the God. That is why their people and their ballet aim upwards to communicate with the God. Chinese culture has a deep emotional tie with the earth and we have more feelings towards mother earth, we have different cultural backgrounds, practices, and lifestyles. “Kindness, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, integrity”, these are the characteristics of our convention.” To create ballet with ethnic characteristics, is to infuse the work with the spirit and history of the ethnicity, or the humanism of contemporary China; to present China and the era through the work. “To introduce our ethnicity to the world, using the global language of ballet."


Throughout NBC’s history, directors at different times made their own choices and had their own thoughts about topics; some were fond of history and others fell for The Story of the Stone (also called Dream of the Red Chamber). Feng Ying found it difficult to name a unified form of creation. Therefore, there is no single theory. The Red Detachment of Women was adapted to ballet after its release in theaters as a film. Part of the reason for this adaptation was that ballet is good at presenting the female, which corresponded with the topic. For Raise the Red Lantern, although it did not seem suitable for ballet, Zheng Yimou’s specialty of visual impact enabled it to subvert expectations. "All these are our attempts to experiment and innovate with the ballet vocabulary from the West. These attempts vary between individuals."

《黃河》Yellow River 圖片由中芭提供 Photo provided by National Ballet of China


For herself, Feng Ying has been deeply moved by the teachings of life. The Crane Whisperer, which premièred in 2015, is a salute to the young. During the Wenchuan earthquake, a group of young people volunteered to help in the disaster area. This touched Feng Ying and reminded her of Zhu Zhe-qin’s (Dadawa’s) song, A True Story; Xu Xiu-juan, the young lady described in the song, grew up with red-crowned cranes and she falls into a swamp when trying to save them. For the ballet’s sake, Feng Ying led her team to Heilongjiang to collect the region’s customs and folk songs. She found the elegance of ballet in the crane’s movements and was reminded of the cultural symbol that was lying deep within Chinese culture that the crane carries. However, The Crane Whisperer is more than just whispers to the young, a youthful chant, as well as sentiment for the loss of lives.


Study Abroad

馮英1979年畢業於北京舞蹈學院,1980年起正式加入中國芭蕾舞團擔任主演,曾參演舞團排演的多部中外芭蕾舞劇,獲獎連連。2009年,她正式擔任中芭團長及藝術總監一職。 Feng Ying graduated from the Beijing Dance Academy in 1979. In 1980, she joined NBC and became a principal dancer, participating in all NBC’s productions and earning numerous prizes. In 2009, she was named director and artistic director of NBC.


In 1982, not long after Feng Ying joined NBC, she was sent to Paris to study at the Palais Garnier for a year. China was undergoing its economic reform at the time. A large number of Western ballets were coming into China, bringing different schools and styles, which was eye-opening. When a young dancer was offered a chance to meet the masters in person, and receive training with them, he or she jumped at the chance. Bearing such thoughts in her mind, Paris greeted Feng Ying with questions: “China’s has ballet? Don’t you all wear your hair in pigtails?” Feng Ying found this ridiculous. “It’s a modern world, and they were ignorant. You see, it was very important for us to go out, and tell the world that the Qing Dynasty was over, our men no longer wore their hair in queues and our women were no longer binding their feet. We needed to tell them Chinese ballet dancers are excellent, determined, and diligent. In fact, although ballet had only a short history in China, the level we attained was quite astonishing to them.”

1982年,馮英被派往巴黎歌劇院進修一年。 In 1982, Feng Ying was sent to Paris to study for a year. 圖片由中芭提供 Photo provided by National Ballet of China


NBC was founded in 1959. In its early years, it invited ballet experts from the former USSR to direct three classical ballets: Swan Lake, Le Corsaire, and Giselle. This set a solid Russian school foundation for the company. In the 1980s, the company began to invite masters from different countries and schools to broaden its dancers’ horizons as well as to keep abreast of developments in the training of classical ballet. Heading to Palais Garnier equals a pilgrimage to the homeland of ballet. There, Feng Ying could truly understand that, compared to the bold, proud, and athletic Russian ballet, French ballet training emphasizes skillfulness. However, the greatest shock to her was not the contrast between different schools of classical ballet; it was modern ballet’s rebellion against conventions. “At that time, I studied with Maurice Béjart. He gave us the sound a door makes to choreograph to. I thought the sound was hideous. He said, then you should present your uncomfortable feelings. To me, ballet means beauty. Why should we create using the noise of a door? At that time, I could not fully accept the avant-garde, the abstract area of art. Likewise, when he asked us to watch his modern version of Romeo and Juliet, with dancers in tights and fabric barely covering their bodies, I found it unacceptable. It was unacceptable to me, who at the time had just opened the door to classical ballet and just finished Swan Lake. From clashes to adaptation, I started to understand there were many forms of arts. I started to understand the pioneering arts of the time.”

馮英說,巴黎的一年,是對自己綜合藝術修養的提高,也是整體意識不同認識層面的轉變。「 不是說學習古典芭蕾就該死抱著,而是藝術的大門要打開,不同藝術的分門別類,反而促進你古典芭蕾的藝術力的提升。當時的經歷,在音樂、繪畫、雕塑,甚至是城市建設方面,都打開我的眼界,對我後來的藝術人生非常有幫助。」直到今日,當年教堂中聽著彌撒聯想起的舞台畫面、凡爾賽宮後院中斜下樹梢的陽光,仍然在她腦海中揮之不散,絲絲浸潤入作品中。

To Feng Ying, the year in Paris elevated her overall artistry and opened her to a different level of cognition. “Learning classical ballet does not necessarily mean that you must stick to it. The door of art needs to be opened to different types of arts. This would in fact raise your artistic level in classical ballet. The experience in music, drawing, sculpture, and even urban design, was eye-opening for me. It was very helpful for my later artistic life." To this day, stage scenes she envisioned while listening to mass in a church, the sunlight that angled through tree branches in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, still live inside her head and are tenderly presented in her work.


Ballet Creative Workshop Close Your Eyes When It’s Getting Dark (2010); Director and Choreographer: Zhang Zhenxin

圖片由中芭提供 Photo provided by National Ballet of China




At the time, there was no modern ballet in China. “Many people had not even seen a complete version of Swan Lake.” Returning from Paris to Beijing after a year of studying, Feng Ying might not be able to present a full picture of ballet’s latest trends in her works, but she had more ideas and could contemplate about creating characters. When she became a tutor and later the director, the seed in her heart had grown into a thriving tree, ready to sow the seeds for the next generation of ballet talents.

2010年開始,她創立「 芭蕾創意工作坊」,請來芭蕾大師指導,為年輕編導提供創作平台 。「 要學就學最好的。在歷史上來說,我們團是中國芭蕾創作最領先的了,第一代的編導都在我們團。但隨著他們的老去,青黃不接,在創作上的確缺少人才。做「 創意工作坊」就是要把我們的短板、現當代這一塊的創作慢慢做起來。另一方面,優秀的演員如果要轉軌,他如果有興趣嘗試,我們就有一個實驗的平台給他。有平台,就要請到好的編導來引導,現在國際上一流的編導, 如約翰‧纽邁亞,其他國內的,如應萼定老師。我想,也許2020年,2030年,在他們之間就會有人出來,成為從中芭走出去的編導。」從2015年開始,中芭也建立了自己第一個學員班,為自己造血。

In 2010, she founded the Ballet Creative Workshop, a creative platform for young choreographers, inviting ballet masters as instructors. “We should learn from the best. Historically, we are the pioneers of Chinese ballet; the first generation of choreographers and directors are all from our Company. As they get older, there is a shortage of young talent to succeed them. We lack creative talents. The Creative Workshop aims to progressively develop the creation of modern and contemporary works. On the other hand, if outstanding dancers would like to change roles, and if they are willing to try, the workshop is an experimental platform for them. A good platform needs good tutors, like John Neumeier from overseas and Ying E Ding in China. I think, by 2020 or 2030, some will become choreographers and directors trained by NBC.” From 2015, NBC started their first studentship program, training their own students.

除了培養創作人才,培養觀眾同樣重要。多年來,中芭打造「 走近芭蕾」與「 高雅藝術進校園」等活動,以及不斷進行的公益演出,都是力圖將芭蕾推到觀眾的面前。馮英說,現在的焦點,更是將芭蕾訓練普及到幼兒教育中,讓家長明白,芭蕾不是高高在上、曲高和寡的藝術,而可以幫助每個人塑造身型、訓練體態,達至身心健康的體驗。

Nurturing the audience is as important as nurturing creative talents. For many years, NBC has been hosting events such as Approaching Ballet and Classy Arts on Campus and performing in charity shows to present ballet to the public. The current focus, as Feng Ying points out, is to promote ballet training in early education. She would like parents to understand that ballet is not an aristocratic art. Instead, it is an experience that helps to improve body shape as well as mental and physical wellness.

馮英在排練時的情況 Feng Ying during rehearsal

圖片由中芭提供 Photo provided by National Ballet of China

走過半個世紀,中芭的腳步跨越民族與世界,傳統與當代。從最初時引進經典芭蕾積極學習,到今日古典舞碼直追世界一流水準,民族舞作用鮮明的文化符號驚艷世界,馮英說,中芭要一如既往堅持「 三足鼎立」的發展原則,才能在世界舞台上找到自己的位置。

After 50 years, NBC has leaped across nationality and the world, conventions, and modernity. In the beginning, it learned from classical ballets eagerly; today, its classical repertoire has become world-class with distinctive cultural symbols of ethnic dance that amaze the world. Feng Ying stresses that, NBC shall persist in its principle of “tripod development” to define itself on the world stage.

「 對我們中國來講,芭蕾畢竟是年輕的藝術,它和西方義大利啊法國啊四五百年的厚重的芭蕾淵源相比,仍是稚嫩。我們14億人口許多人沒有看過芭蕾,對於西方經典芭蕾,可能大家最知道的是《天鵝湖》,最近可能是《吉賽爾》、《唐吉軻德》,但人家還有那麼多好的,例如《奧涅金》啊,《舞姬》啊,太多太多的古典經典芭蕾,在中國並不為人熟知。因此我們要把這方面做好,把人家最重要的精華學到手,掌握好、傳承好,把古典芭蕾最唯美的藝術形式呈現出來讓更多的觀眾能夠理解。另一方面,我們要創造出有中國特色的芭蕾,彰顯民族特點和人情的。還有,我們要能夠站在今天、當下,去展現我們中國人如何融入這個世界中,在現、當代藝術中不是落後的,而是可以走在時代前面,是創新的、當代的。今後中芭就應該朝著這三足鼎立的方向去走,古典的、民族的、創新的。才是能站得穩的。」

“For China, ballet is a very new art form. Compared to ballet in France or Italy, where it has evolved for four to five centuries, ours is still very young. 1.4 billion Chinese people still haven’t had the chance to see a ballet. Many know Western classics such as Swan Lake, and more recently they may have also heard of Giselle, and Don Quixote. Yet there are still many great Western ballets such as Onegin and La Bayadere that are unknown to the Chinese population. Therefore, we need to do our job well, seize the essence of the art, so that more audiences can understand it. On the other hand, we need to create ballets with Chinese characteristics, to make features and connections to our culture prominent. We need to move ahead of the era, be innovative, and modern. NBC should take a tripod approach to support its development: be classical, be ethnic, and be innovative."

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