[In case anyone missed it, here’s another of Diane Parkes’ pieces from China, published last week]

Chi Cao and Ambra Vallo in Beauty and the Beast

When Birmingham Royal Ballet principal Chi Cao steps on stage in Beijing this week it will be a triumphant homecoming for the dancer, who trained in the Chinese capital.

A dancer with BRB since 1995, the performances of Beauty and the Beast will be the first time Chi has taken to the stage in China for a full length ballet since he left the country 15 years ago.

But he says that while his family and friends may be packing out the audience at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, he is determined to treat it like any other performance.

‘You have to see it as just another day,’ says Chi. ‘By the time I have reached this stage in my career I have to ensure that all my performances are at a certain level.’

Chi, who also plays Romeo in Romeo and Juliet on the three week tour of China, is aiming to have some free time to catch up with friends and family in Beijing but is also keen to introduce fellow dancers to his home city.

‘I want to try and organise a dinner and show them the side of the city which they will enjoy,’ he says. ‘I want them to think good things about China and to see the sides of it which I know.’

The company began the tour in Birmingham’s sister city Guangzhou last week, is spending this week in Bejing and moves to Shanghai next Monday. It is the first time BRB has toured China although in recent years it has visited Japan and Hong Kong.

With it being the first time in China for many in the company, BRB is hoping to arrange a trip out to the Great Wall later this week when the dancers have a day off.

It has been a busy year for Chi as he took a six month break from the company to take part in a film Mao’s Last Dancer.

Directed by Bruce Beresford of Driving Miss Daisy fame and produced by Jane Scott, the film is based on the best-selling novel by Chinese writer Li Cunxin.

Diane Parkes

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