Last weekend, the New York City Ballet (NYCB), one of the leading ballet companies in the US, arrived in China. It hoped to appeal to a Chinese audience with a contemporary American style.
"Our performance is based on classical ballet but it's still very accessible," says Nilas Martins, the ballet company's lead dancer. "It's a fun performance. It's like watching fireworks," he continues.
The NYCB performed at Beijing's Exhibition Theatre last Saturday before going on to Shanghai for the 7th International Dance Festival.
But Martins is a little confused by the Chinese response to his performances. "Their faces are blank. I can't tell if they enjoy it or not. Perhaps they think it's respectful not to disturb the dance."
This is Martins' fifth visit to China. In 2004 he performed at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
He laughs when he describes the atmosphere: "I couldn't believe it. People were getting up from their seats and moving to sit by their friends. They were chattering and enjoying themselves. They didn't take out food or anything, but the atmosphere was nothing like the formal ballet in the US."
So how are you meant to behave? Western audiences sit quietly, listening intently to the music and immersing themselves in the dance, then everyone claps loudly at the end. But Martins is convinced you should enjoy ballet in your own way. It's not necessary to follow convention.
"My advice to a young person seeing ballet for the first time is not to be judgmental. If you have an open mind you will capture the beauty," he says.
What to do at the theatre
Go to the performance with an open mind.
Respect others around you; they don't want to be distracted from the performance.
Eat crisps or slurp your drink.
Get up and move about in the middle of the performance.
Take photos with a flash.
Chat with your neighbour about the show.
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