- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - The National Ballet of China is bringing its acclaimed “Raise the Red Lantern” ballet to the Philippines this month under a cultural exchange program that officials said Wednesday has remained strong despite the two countries’ territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The ballet version of acclaimed film director Zhang Yimou’s Oscar-nominated movie will be performed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Oct. 27-28 - three years after talks began to bring it to the country.

The cultural center’s artistic director, Chris B. Millado, said they consider the 100-member ballet troupe’s show in Manila and a reciprocal performance in China next year by Ballet Philippines as a “handshake not only between partners, it’s a handshake between audiences, it’s a handshake between cultures.”

Chinese Embassy cultural counsellor Pan Feng said cultural relations have stayed strong despite the territorial disputes. He said he has worked for the last four years to bring Chinese artists to the Philippines and Filipino artists to China, and China’s Ministry of Culture invites Filipino artists every year.

“So even with the disputed China Sea problems, the culture relations never stopped,” he said.

Asked if there will be more cultural exchanges with China as a result of President Rodrigo Duterte’s vow to forge closer ties with Beijing, Felipe de Leon Jr., chairman of the National Commission for Culture and Arts, said the largest number of cultural exchanges handled by his office has always been with China.

“It has nothing to do with political conditions in this country,” he said, adding that the commission has a policy of continuing cooperation with other nations regardless of changes in the Philippine administration.

The ballet Raise the Red Lantern premiered in 2001 and was also directed by Zhang. Set in the 1920s, it tells the story of a young woman who becomes one of the concubines of a wealthy man during the Warlord Era.

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