Director Dennis Nahat confronted many different kinds of choreography in creating the show Yulan. From fundraising to building its infrastructure from scratch to navigating visas, it has required some fancy footwork.

Yulan debuted last fall in China and now the show, created by Nahat for China’s Dalian Acrobatic Troupe, makes its U.S. premiere Oct. 10-13 at the California Theatre in downtown San Jose. The ambitious work, set to a commissioned score by composer Paul Chihara, also has a multimedia aspect, with five projectors beaming colorful images on the stage and a rig of moving lights that required a custom-built transformer.

Yulan is presented in the U.S. by Theatre Ventures International, a ballet school and production company founded by Nahat last year.
“I was asked to come to China to create a new work for this company, and it was something that I created on the spot with the company for them. The flower, yulan, is the magnolia. It’s the flower of Shanghai,” Nahat says.

Yulan blends dance and acrobatics. “Everybody dances in the show in one way or another, they do their highwire acts and acrobatics, so you can’t tell who’s an acrobat and who’s a dancer because it’s so integrated,” he says

Nahat describes a delicate chain of daily emails, texts and phone calls over the summer to secure U.S. visas for the company. Even so, a delay in obtaining visas led to the cancellation of Yulan’s first week of performances (the planned opening had been Oct. 3).  Now, however, all of the artists are in San Jose.

The magnolia, Nahat points out, stands for peace, love and harmony in Chinese culture.

“They [Dalian Acrobatic Troupe] wanted to be able to present it as a gift from China, so we raised all the money in China for it. The production is not government supported. The piece was funded and produced by this company and myself,” Nahat says. “It’s the first of its kind. We wanted to offer it to all the cities that we are touring to as a gift to help raise funds for scholarships.”

Yulan is presented in partnership with the San Jose/Dublin Sister City program, which raised money for arts and science scholarships for students in Beijing, Dublin, Ireland and San Jose. In addition to San Jose, Dublin also has a sister city relationship with Beijing.

Yulan’s opening night, Oct. 10, kicks off with a gala honoring KRON-4 News’ Catherine Heenan, this year’s recipient of the Spirit of Ireland awards presented by the San Jose/Dublin Sister City Program. Yulan

California Theatre
Oct 10-13