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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 12 JULY 2008- After successful appearances in Peking in 1998 and 2005, the Paris Opera Ballet was re-invited to China in May, this time to dance in the magnificent new theatre designed by the French architect, Paul Andreu. * The Grand Théatre National de Chine, situated in the centre of the city, near the People's Assembly and Tian'Anmen square was completed in December 2007 after almost seven years of work.

"I went to see it some time ago and it is an absolutely beautiful building", Brigitte Lefèvre, the artistic director of the opera told me. "I am very happy that the company is being given the opportunity to dance there as besides anything else, the Grand Theatre is a magnificent symbol of the cultural exchanges between our countries."

Indeed, made out of titanium, a strong white metallic material, and glass, the theatre or theatres, as the complex also includes a concert hall for 2,017 people and two smaller theatres as well as exhibition and shopping areas, have been constructed around an artificial lake. As the architect himself put it, it is a "city of theatres".

At a press conference given at the Palais Garnier in the presence of Andreu, Brigitte Lefèvre announced that the company would be giving four performances of Pierre Lacotte's Paquita, a festive work full of bravura dancing which should appeal to Chinese audiences. She also commented that rehearsals would be open to the general public and hoped that Chinese dancers would attend classes given to the French company thus strengthening ties between the two troupes prior to the National Ballet of China's visit to the French capital next January.

Paris Opera Ballet: Paquita
Photo courtesy of Paris Opera Ballet

In a direct reference to the Olympic Games, she added that the mission of the French dancers was purely artistic and that they were the cultural ambassadors of France. People were brought together by what she termed, "the force of art," a sentiment emphasized by the architect himself. "I worked with the Chinese people for ten years ", he said, "and made many good friends there. Economic development leads to progress while art addresses to the most fundamental values."

*The A.R.O.P. Foundation collected some 450, 000 Euros from sponsors including BNP Paribas, Danone, EADS, Ernst and Young, Groupama, Remy martin, Saint-Gobain, Total

Calendar TIp: Vienna

Akram Khan and the National Ballet of China
17 - 19 July 2008
Vienna, Austria

Calendar Tip: San Francisco

Power & Glory: Court Arts of China's Ming Dynasty
Through 21 September 2008
Asian Art Museum
San Francisco, California

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