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Shanghai Dance Theatre makes its NYC debut with Soaring Wings at Lincoln Center

Shanghai Dance Theatre celebrates the rediscovery of the crested ibis in Soaring Wings at Lincoln Center

David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center
20 Lincoln Center Plaza
January 5-7, $22-$167

The Shanghai Dance Theatre has landed in the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center this weekend with the U.S. premiere of Soaring Wings, a new-agey epic modern fable presented in a style reminiscent of the Radio City Rockettes. Written by Luo Huaizhen and directed and choreographed by Tong Ruirui, the lengthy two-hour piece is about the discovery of seven crested ibises, a much-loved bird species thought to be extinct, in Shaanxi Province in 1981. The lavish production boasts more than three dozen dancers in gorgeous costumes by Zhong Jiani, who does an especially effective job with the flowing white wings of the seven women portraying the “bird of good fortune” as well as the dark, ominous, futuristic garments worn by a corp of male dancers who represent pollution and environmental degradation. Huaizhen and Ruirui have a penchant for lining up the performers in Rockette-like vertical and horizontal columns, while Ruirui’s choreography features perhaps all-too-realistic birdlike neck and head movements for the crane women, which manages to be simultaneously completely convincing and disturbingly eerie. The staging is simple, with a perhaps-dead tree with its roots showing that is wheeled on- and offstage, in front of projections of scenes of clouds and mountains on a rear scrim. Principal dancers Zhu Jiejing and Wang Jiajun lead a large cast that perpetually smiles coquettishly as they flirt with ballet and contemporary and folk dance, creating a lush, evocative something that is not quite any of those genres but which had audience members enthusiastically sneaking cellphone photos. And Guo Sida’s syrupy score is far too reminiscent of “Healing Rhythms,” a biofeedback program developed by doctors Deepak Chopra, Dean Ornish, and Andrew Weil — one of the program’s training skills even involves a floating feather, which plays a prominent role in Soaring Wings, continuing through January 7 at Lincoln Center before flying to Boston. And no, there is no kickline at the end.

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