BEIJING, Jan. 22 -- Watching CCTV's annual Spring Festival gala and one of the many festival films tailor-made for the season is no longer the dominant way of spending your leisure time during the week-long break. A great variety of entertainment is also on offer at theaters around Beijing.
No matter what your age or taste, there is sure to be something to whet your appetite.
Israel Ballet's Cinderella and Russian National Ballet Theater's Swan Lake and The Nutcracker are good family fare. For sophisticated ballet lovers, Israel Ballet will perform a modern ballet night on Jan 31 at the National Center for the Performing Arts.
The same company's Cinderella adds a "beggar" character in the dance. When Prince Charming picks his wife at the ball, Cinderella's stepmother and sisters leave her at home alone, but she befriends a beggar who turns out to be a fairy and sends her to the ball.
On Jan 31, Israel Ballet will perform a modern ballet triple-bill including Written In the Sand, Ni-Na and XTA.
The choreography of XTA is based on a series of repeat, drum-like rhythms. The movements sync with the rhythms but are separated with cry-like voices.
Russian National Ballet Theater will perform Swan Lake at Poly Theater on Jan 27 and The Nutcracker on Jan 28.
The Forbidden City Concert Hall has been staging "2009 New Year Concerts" since the middle of January. Famous pieces of Peking Opera, traditional crosstalk, folk songs and concerts are making for a colorful start to the New Year. The Light Music New Year Concert features a quirky playlist - the traditional Chinese song Jasmine follows music by Super Mario; Memory from the musical Cats is after the theme to the movie Mission Impossible.
Chen Kaige's movie Forever Enthralled recalls the popularity of Peking Opera. If you want to sample just the very best from the genre, China National Peking Opera Company's New Year show on Jan 28 is a must. The two-hour performance includes Yang Silang Visits His Mother, Madame White Snake and Lubu and Diaochan, all of them highly educational guides to the essence of Peking Opera.
Those in their 50s and 60s might also opt to visit the Forbidden City Concert Hall on Jan 29, when the old Chinese songs I Love You, China, When I Walk in Greater Hinggan Mountains and Ode to the Plums will take you back to "the good old days".
Or you can see the Russian State Academy Beriozka Dance Company's folk performance at Poly Theater from Jan 29 to Feb 1. The 60-year-old company is famous for the girls' round dance Beriozka, in which girls in traditional Russian dresses dance to the music of an old folk song Vo Pole Beriozonka Stoyala (There Was a Birch Tree in the Field). These songs and dances are treasured by a whole generation.
One more show worth seeing is the water concert at the Water Cube, formally known as the National Aquatic Center. Less a reminder of super-swimmer Michael Phelps, it is more reminiscent of all those lavish, pool-themed musicals from the heyday of Hollywood. You can almost fantasize about Esther Williams rising up from gushing fountains.
The "dancing water" squirts are deftly and richly choreographed and accompanied by a mostly classical Western score, half of which is live and half recorded. It is a suitable finale to a grand tour of this wonderful Olympic venue.