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Reimagining the Ballet des Porcelaines: A Story of Magic, Desire, and Exotic Entanglement

Sat, 3/19 · 3:15 pm3:45 pm EDT · Forum, Lewis Arts complex

Music Department, Lewis Center for the Arts, Department of Art and Archaeology, Department of French and Italian, Effron Center for the Study of America, European Cultural Studies, Program in Italian Studies

Event Info

The Princeton Department of Music is delighted to be partnering with the Lewis Center for the Arts to bring Reimagining the Ballet des Porcelaines: A Story of Magic, Desire, and Exotic Entanglement to Princeton University on March 18-19, 2022.

Free, Ticketed. (Tickets are available at this link.) Attendees must present photo ID and proof of COVID vaccination + booster (if eligible), and be masked at all times. Dancers will be unmasked while performing on stage.

The performances will take place in the Forum of the Lewis Arts Complex on March 18 and March 19, including three performances open to the public and a Saturday morning performance for the students participating in Trenton Arts at Princeton (TAP).

The schedule, including some associated events, is as follows:

  • Friday, March 18 at 4:00PM — Performance 1
  • Friday, March 18 at 4:45PM — Panel Discussion, Co-Lab at Lewis Arts Center, chaired by Tina Fehlandt (Lecturer in Dance, Lewis Center for the Arts), featuring Meredith Martin, Phil Chan, and Anne Cheng (Professor of English)
  • Friday, March 18 at 7:00PM — Performance 2
  • Saturday, March 19 at 11:30AM — Special Performance for students in TAP
  • Saturday, March 19 at 3:15PM — Performance 3

Associated events include a Music Department Colloquium by Olivia Bloechl (University of Pittsburgh) at noon on Friday, March 18 (presented via Zoom in Woolworth Center), as well as a special display of related materials at the Cotsen Library, curated by Andrea Immel, including a brief presentation at 2:00PM on Friday.

About the Artist:

The project is directed by Phil Chan (choreographer and activist) and Art Historian Meredith Martin ’97 (Associate Professor of Art History, New York University).

The Ballet des Porcelaines, a ballet pantomime, was first presented in 1739 by a group of French aristocrats at a chateau near Paris. It tells the story of a Chinese sorcerer who rules an exotic island and transforms trespassers into porcelain. A prince and princess get lost on the island; he is turned into a teapot, and she has to break the spell and bring her lover back to life. On the one hand a standard Orientalist fairy tale, the ballet is also an allegory for the intense European desire to know and possess the secrets of making porcelain. Although it would later inspire famous ballets featuring sleeping beauties and porcelain princesses, the Ballet des Porcelaines is virtually unknown. What is particularly exciting about this performance, however, is the way in which ballet is updated for contemporary audiences, flipping the script and placing Asian protagonists front and center. By reimagining this chinoiserie rococo production, this ballet gets at the heart of the mystery, exoticism, and complex cultural work that is embedded in the fabrication of porcelain. There will be three public performances in the Forum of the Lewis Arts Complex and a special performance on Saturday morning for TAP students (Trenton Arts at Princeton).

The eighteenth-century French score will be performed by Early Music Princeton (Wendy Young, Director), conducted by violinist Leah Gale Nelson, punctuated by the addition of electronic music.

In addition to the Music Department and the Lewis Center, co-sponsors for the event include the Council of the Humanities, the Department of French and Italian, the Program in East Asian Studies, the Department of Art and Archeology, the Program in Italian Studies, the Effron Center for the Study of America, and the Program in European Cultural Studies.

Meredith Martin, Project Director 

Meredith Martin is associate professor of art history at NYU and the Institute of Fine Arts. She received her PhD from Harvard University and her BA from Princeton. A specialist in eighteenth-century French art and architecture, she is the author of Dairy Queens: The Politics of Pastoral Architecture from Catherine de’ Medici to Marie-Antoinette (Harvard University Press, 2011); and The Sun King at Sea: Maritime Art and Galley Slavery in Louis XIV’s France (Getty Research Institute Publications, 2022; co-authored with Gillian Weiss). In addition, she has co-authored Meltdown: Picturing the World’s First Bubble Economy (Brepols/Harvey Miller, 2020), which accompanies an exhibition at The New York Public Library scheduled to open in September 2022, and she edited and contributed to Reimagining the Ballet des Porcelaines: A Tale of Magic, Desire, and Exotic Entanglement (Brepols/Harvey Miller, 2022). Martin is a founding editor of Journal18.

Phil Chan, Project Director and Choreographer 

Phil Chan is a co-founder of Final Bow for Yellowface, and most recently served as the Director of Programming for IVY, connecting young professionals with leading American museums and performing arts institutions. He is a graduate of Carleton College and an alumnus of the Ailey School. As a writer, he served as the Executive Editor for FLATT Magazine and contributed to Dance Europe Magazine, Dance Magazine, Dance Business Weekly, and the Huffington Post. He was the founding General Manager of the Buck Hill Skytop Music Festival, and was the General Manager for Armitage Gone! Dance. He served multiple years on the National Endowment for the Arts dance panel and the Jadin Wong Award panel presented by the Asian American Arts Alliance. He serves on the International Council for the Parsons Dance Company, and the Advisory Board of Dance Magazine. He is the author of Final Bow for Yellowface: Dancing between Intention and Impact, and was a 2020 New York Public Library Dance Research Fellow, and is  ’21/’22 “Citizen Artist” at Manhattan School of Music and Visiting Scholar at the A/P/A Institute at NYU.

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