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Ballet tour stumbles to diplomatic disaster

We reported earlier that the Royal New Zealand Ballet cancelled a performance in Tianjin, China, because the hall was too cold. Then they had trouble retrieving their kit after the Chinese locked the doors. Our China correspondent Rudolph Tang says the authorities in Tianjin hotly dispute the chill factor. Here is his report.


In a statement released yesterday, The Royal New Zealand Ballet
announced the cancellation of its Giselle at Tianjin Grand Theatre
originally scheduled April 20-21 due to lower room temperature. It is
particularly embarrassing and a slap in the face given the fact that
the Tianjin Grand Theatre is considered one of the most innovative and
advanced houses in China.

It is reported from the Chinese side that the Tianjin Grand Theatre
and its management company Propel have exhausted every option to raise
the room temperature by stuffing the theatre with industrial fan
heaters but unfortunately that didn’t work out. Full ticket refund or
replacement plan has been announced. An earlier report from The New
Zealand Herald suggested a lockout of the house, a rescue mission by
the Embassy and a room temperature of 10 degrees Celsius inside the

But according to sources close to the theatre, the room temperature
was raised to 18.1 degrees Celsius (according to the thermometer
placed by the RNZB) during the rehearsal when the heaters were on, way above the reported 10 degrees Celsius. The theatre was confident to maintain the room temperature at 20 degrees Celsius during the
performance as stated in the contract. “It is the arrogant and
snobbish attitude of the ballet and their translator that cost the
performance. They treated us like they were the allied troops that
burnt down the Garden of Gardens,” said a theatre manager who did not
want to be identified.

Tianjian is one of the stops of the RNZB’s two weeks China tour
including Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou and Guangzhou.


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  1. It’s hard to say from the small picture, but I wonder if the thermometer was photoshopped into the picture? The shadows look a bit funny to me.

  2. 18° C is only 65° F. That still sounds chilly. Would that be typical for a performance?

  3. Rosalind says:

    I may be wrong and I’m sure one of the orchestra manager types on here will know this for sure, but isn’t it meant to be a steady temperature of 20 C for rehearsal/performance with an absolute minimum of 18 C?

    Perhaps the requirements are different for ballet dancers given the physical demands of their job?

  4. I know from first-hand experience that warmth is extremely important to dancers, especially in ballet. A studio or stage which is not warm enough is more than uncomfortable–it is dangerous. The last thing a dancer needs is for an improperly heated room to cause a sudden tensing of the muscles, which in turn leads to injury. 20C is the minimum, really.

  5. “It is the arrogant and snobbish attitude of the ballet and their translator that cost the performance. They treated us like they were the allied troops that burnt down the Garden of Gardens.”

    Well, that sounds like the response of people who are lashing out after having been embarrassed before the outside world – the kind who would lock dancers’ stuff inside the theatre out of spite.

    I don’t know anyone at the Royal NZ Ballet personally, but I know that “arrogant” and “snobbish” are not at all traits associated with New Zealanders. (Except perhaps for one notoriously prickly opera star.) And dancers, like most performers, are in general extremely reluctant to cancel shows.

    I guess the experts who talk about the importance to the Chinese of not losing face aren’t kidding …

    On the other hand, I would guess that Chinese dancers in the same situation would perform anyway despite the physical risk, if only out of fear of the punishment they’d receive if they refused to perform

  6. despite being the most “innovative and advanced house” in China (although it lacks proper air-conditioning which can be found in other much older theatres in China), the Tianjin theatre is ran by a very unprofessional management team that does not understand the artists’ needs

    • Wray Armstrong says:

      Cathy, I was very surprised at your cheap shot. You of all people are aware of the challenges of running an arts centre or any theatre in China, and I would have hoped that someone professing to be an international consultant on matters pertaining to China would have presented a more positive and fair position with respect to TGT and its management. Just another jaded tired bureaucrat, or what’s happened? I note that neither you nor the Slipped Disc China corres Rudolf could be bothered to report the fine success of the TGT first anniversary presentation of the Stanislavsky Company’s ‘Onegin’ this past week… good news is no news?

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