A glimpse of Suzhou Ballet Theatre in Johor Baru


When I received the invitation to a Ballet Appreciation Event by the Suzhou Ballet Theatre, I read that this event was organized by the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House at R&F Princess Cove and co-hosted by the JB Ballet Academy.


The visiting team from Suzhou Ballet Theatre
at the close of the Ballet Appreciation Event
held at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House

From a brief introduction, I also read that the internationally renowned Suzhou Ballet Theatre was established in 2007 as the only professional ballet company in Jiangsu Province in China, that feature top-tier ballet dancers with both domestic and international backgrounds.


I agreed that this was an excellent opportunity for ballet practitioners in Johor Baru not only to interact and learn from them but also be inspired by this professional ballet company while they were here to spend time with students and teachers after their recent performance of Swan Lake at the Esplanade Theatre in neighbouring Singapore.


The finale of their performance of Swan Lake
at the Esplanade Theatre, Singapore, recently

Not willing to miss this chance of catching a glimpse of the visiting team from Suzhou Ballet Theatre, I accepted the invitation and made sure I arrived on time at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House for the Ballet Appreciation Event.


I have always admired the grace and elegance of ballet dancers, how they twirled and balanced on their tip toes and was deeply in awe of their skills in defying gravity with giant leaps…


On arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the lobby of the Opera House was already chock-a-block with people, queuing to enter the auditorium while arrivals (like me!) were directed to check with the reception desk to help me decipher the details on my e-ticket.


A narrator on stage led the Appreciation Event
The reception staff took a closer look at my e-ticket and directed me upstairs to the Princess Box where, she said, ushers will show me to my seat.


I was instead, warmly welcomed by founder and principal of JB Ballet Academy, Ye Pick Lian, who showed me to my seat and introduced me to Wang Quan Xing, the team leader of the visiting Suzhou Ballet team.


The event kicked-off promptly with an introduction to Suzhou Ballet Theatre, narrated by a gentleman, with the help of visuals posted on the screen.


The narrator used visuals and videos on the 
screen to illustrate his narration

Among their repertoire of dances were Chinese original dance dramas, World Classics like Swan Lake, Carmen, Cinderella, Romeo & Juliet and Nutcracker, as well as Ballet Boutique Gala performances like Tchaikovsky’s Giselle.


As he shared about the evolution of ballet through the ages, using short video clips and visuals on the screen, I could tell from his graceful gestures, that this gentleman was an experienced ballet dancer.

The origin of ballet may be traced to the Italian Renaissance courts in the 15th and 16th centuries where it started as a stately form of dance, created to entertain the aristocrats.


Ballet started as a stately form of dance,
created to entertain the aristocrats.

When the popularity of ballet spread to France, King Louis XIV was so charmed by this elegant dance that he ordered the founding of the Royal Dance Academy.


The Paris Opera Ballet, the first professional theatrical ballet company, emerged from here and exists to this day. This also explains why ballet terminology is in French.


The Ballet Appreciation presentation went on to discuss the contributions by Rose Gad and Alexander Kolpin of the Royal Danish Ballet.


A solo male dancer performing
a jazz-ballet piece, Emergence

Meanwhile, the birth of the modern pointe shoe is often attributed to the early 20th century Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who was one of the most famous and influential dancers of her time.


The elegance of dancing with pointe shoes was demonstrated in a brief video of the Suzhou Ballet team dressed in frilly white tutus, performing an excerpt from the classic, Swan Lake, in a short video.


To demonstrate how ballet has evolved, a solo male dancer presented a live performance of a modern, jazz-ballet piece titled, Emergence, to the riveting music by Maurice Ravel.


Dressed in a dark suit but boldly bare-chested, his mesmerizing moves spoke volumes and kept the audience enthralled.


As Shakespeare said:
"Parting is such sweet sorrow!"

In the performance of an excerpt from Glorious Clouds, the audience (me included!) could easily identify with the pair of dancers who beautifully portrayed a loving couple who were bidding each other a fond farewell.


Finally, the audience was treated to a charming performance of, The Dream Interrupted, that shared the true while seemingly unreal love story between Du Linlang and Liu Mengmei, inspired by and based on the Kungu opera, Peony Pavilion.


A scene from, The Dream Interrupted

While this brought the showcase to a fitting end, ballet students and teachers stayed back to benefit from an interactive teaching session with the team from Suzhou Ballet Theatre.


When light flooded the auditorium again, I paused to consider how the Johor Baru arts and culture scene sorely needed to be revived and supported so that it may be developed to its full potential in tandem with the city’s modern development.


After this brief stop in Johor Baru, the Suzhou Ballet team will leave for heritage city, Melaka, where they will present, Reminiscing Jiangnan, A Ballet Collection of Excellence, April 12 to 14, 2024, at the Encore Melaka Theatre.


Ye Pick Lian of JB Ballet Academy
[Left] with Wang Quan Xing of
Suzhou Ballet Theatre

Thank you, Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House, R&F Princess Cove and my friends at JB Ballet Academy, for the pleasure of enjoying a live performance by the team from Suzhou Ballet Theatre in Johor Baru.


With three studios in Johor Baru, JB Ballet Academy provides professional training in Classical Ballet certified by the Royal Academy of Dance, United Kingdom. For more info, visit Facebook page for JB Ballet Academy.


For more info on the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House, go to website, pzsoh.com.my


For more info on the Suzhou Ballet Theatre, visit website, suzhouballettheatre.com


Photo Credits: Courtesy of JB Ballet Academy and Tan Chai Puan