Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival 2019 presented the lavish, yet somehow intimate, Under Siege, a stunning production of the Yang Liping Contemporary Dance Company of China.
Its chief choreographer and director Yang Liping had the audacity to put on stage an epic tale of an ancient war, the Chu-Han Conflict that pitted hundreds of thousands against each other. Her brilliant idea was to concentrate on each of the leading characters in the conflict and, by telling their fascinating stories, thereby revealing the immensity of war and its ghastly consequences.
Under Siege was narrated by the tireless statesman Xiao He (the strong-voiced, agile Tong Mingguang), supplemented by Wang Yan (calmness personified), called the Paper Cutter, a lovely young lady sitting downstage left for the duration of the show, almost buried in white fluff as she lifted cutouts of Chinese characters.
The Chu-Han Conflict is far too complex to relate here, but each character displayed an aspect of the war beginning with Xiang Yu portrayed by the charismatically macho Ge Junyi. Xiang’s devoted concubine, Yu Ji was performed by the superb Hu Shenyuan, a beautiful young man whose performance as this faithful woman pretty much stole the show as he, virtually naked, undulated and floated about before donning a beautiful red costume.
The idea man, tactician, Han Xin was played by two actors whose interplay was breathtaking. Gong Zhonghui was the White Han and Ouyang Tian, the Black.
The final principal character was Liu Bang a single-minded warrior played by Zhu Fengwei who exuded a fierceness that filled the Koch Theatre.
Incredibly, only eleven chorus members—evenly divided between men and women—portrayed legions of warriors, courtiers and townspeople, a tribute to Ms. Yang’s ability to choreograph and animate crowds with exactness and dramatic perception.
The most amazing element of Under Siege was the Tim Yip set: thousands and thousands of scissors strung together in enormous clouds that rose, fell, undulated and, at the conclusion, crashed down in a coup de théâtre capping a magnificent production.
Mr. Yip also designed the incredibly complex costumes that clearly defined the characters and filled the stage with texture and movement. If that wasn’t enough, he also produced visual effects that transported the audience to a totally fabulous world.
Ms. Yang includes Pina Bausch as an inspiration, clearly manifested in the final stage image of a stage knee-deep in red paper petals amidst which the cast rolled, dashed, flipped and wrestled.
The production was accompanied by live musicians who were extraordinary and completely integrated into the staging.
Under Siege (August 8-10, 2019)
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival 2019
David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-721-6500 or visit http://www.MostlyMozartFestival.org
Running time: two hours without an intermission