Here is another review of Middle Kingdom — Ancient China" Review By Keith Kreitman, writing for "Inside Bay Area ". Kudos to Phil Young!
I DREAD reviewing a production where I don't have enough superlative adjectives to adequately describe the experience. The premiere of "Middle Kingdom — Ancient China" during the weekend at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts did that to me. Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley and Chinese Performing Artists of America gave me the most exhilarating dance theater experience in memory. It's an epic of visual splendor. I feel safe in predicting that it's a sure masterpiece and that when it tours, it will win the admiration of the ballet world. Every element of the production contributed to its success. Choreography by Dennis Nahat and Yong Yao blends classical dance of Western and Chinese roots, with the famed Chinese acrobatics thrown in. The creators must have come near exhausting the vocabularies of both the Western and Asian dance traditions — the show became a test of their dancers' resources. And what dancing! They met the challenge. The combined company of 27 from Ballet San Jose and 10 dancers and six martial arts artists from the San Jose-based Chinese Performing Artists of America were flawless, especially in the acrobatics. As a chorus, in pas de deux and in solos, they held the audience spellbound. There also was some great humor. Individually, the funniest dancers represented animals from the Chinese Lunar Year calendar. The monkey by Fei Chen is a marvel of acrobatic movement. Yingchao Zhang from China repeatedly wowed the audience, especially playing the ox in the Chinese zodiac sequence. The stage boasted vibrant color combinations by Ching Shyu (set), as well as costumes brought over from China. Dazzling would be an understatement. Lighting by Kenneth L. Keith turned the show into a brilliant visual feast.
CPAA resident composer Phil Young provided music that not only laid the platform upon which the dancers could emote, but could easily stand alone as an outstanding modern work.
"Middle Kingdom — Ancient China" is a classic example of how all elements in a production contribute to its success. While the themes almost didn't matter — the beauty of the performances held the audience spellbound — the three-act show covers stories from 5,000 years of Chinese history. Among the tales are a story of the creation, the Chinese invention of printing, gunpowder and the compass as well as battles and all sorts of dances. Ann Woo, executive director of CPAA, went to the right guy with her idea. Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley's Nahat has a global view of dance, accepting and promoting all genres. (He made a sensational ballet set to the music of Elvis Presley and gave us the great "Out of Africa" several years ago.) The only sad thing about "Middle Kingdom" is that it had only a four-day run.