Review-A Celebration of Dance-The Hong Kong Ballet


By: Joyce Wong

In celebration of its 35th birthday, Hong Kong Ballet has put together a repertoire of three dance numbers in A Celebration of Dance. The programme includes Serenade by the legendary contemporary ballet choreographer George Balanchine, Castrati by renowned Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato and the classic Swan Lake Act III by Natalia Conus after Marius Petipa’s 1895 original: three pieces of very different tones, each showing off different strengths of the Hong Kong Ballet’s male and female dancers.



Serenade was a refined and articulate showcase for the company’s ballerinas. The dance opened with a scene lit in soft ambient blue lighting (original design by Ronald Bates, adapted by Mak Kwok Fai) of the corps de ballet standing in lines, dressed in the signature blue tutus of this dance (costumes by Barbara Karinska). A subtle turnout in unison began the choreography, which unfolded to feature wonderful shapes and formations.


The highlight of this number was really the chorus work which flowed from arrangement to arrangement executed with fluid grace by the ballerinas. The different levels were a delight to watch. I enjoyed the shapes created by a group of five ballerinas at one point, who folded and unfolded like a flower by simply holding hands in doing simple floor work, twists and turns. There was also another great arrangement towards the end when two danseurs at the apex of a V-formation lifted two ballerinas standing while other ballerinas extended their limbs in three levels of height to complement the pairs. In terms of technique, the flexibility of the ballerinas was definitely shown off in numerous extensions. Continuous chaînés and pirouettes by principal dancers Liu Yu-yao, Nina Matiashvili and Zhang Si Yuan also showed off skilled techniques.


It’s also worth mentioning that the score (performed by the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, conducted by Clotilde Otranto) synchronised intricately with the choreography and the dialogue between movement and music was wonderful. It’s always frustrating when expression in the choreography doesn’t match that of the orchestra.


The dance ended with a beautiful scene which reminded me of Giselle. Lit in dim, soft glowing blue, a ballerina was lifted and carried in passage through the corps de ballet, melancholic yet exquisite.



Set to an arrangement of Vivaldi and Karl Jenkins, Castrati was a strong juxtaposition after Serenade. It was a powerful showcase for choreography and technique by nine danseurs which takes its inspiration from castrato singers—castrated men with preserved soprano voices—popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. The dance focuses on the struggle of a boy (Shen Jie) undergoing intiation into the castrato tradition.


Featuring dynamic jetés, punchy steps and demanding stretches, the choreography balanced masculine power with effeminate restraint to manifest in movement the ambivalence of the castrato. The entire number challenged the technique and limits of the danseurs. Shen Jie showed great articulation and control from his opening sequence. The corps de ballet also performed with strength and their opening sequence remained one of the most memorable parts of the dance. The primitive quality in the choreography, accentuated visually by the danseurs’ hawk-like costumes (Francis Montesinos), worked in interesting ways with the heavily Baroque score. The ballet built with simmering energy throughout and ended on a compelling and transformative climax.


The lighting design (original by Brad Fields, executed by Mak Kwok Fai) complimented the dance very well. The opening scene was immediately captivating, with a single faint yellow spotlight centre stage, just bright enough to make out the dancers entering to stand-by on the floor. The most memorable use of lighting was at the end, where the lights projected onto the back curtains to tint the stage in a brooding and solemn red as the boy lay centre stage surrounded by his castrati brotherhood.


Swan Lake Act III

The final number in the programme was the famous Swan Lake Act III, where Prince Siegfried dances with the Black Swan in a costume ball to choose his bride. The dance opened with a scene of elaborate stage design (Peter Farmer) and dancers fully costumed in character. The grand pas featured six variations by various characters, notably one by the delightful jesters (nice to see Shen Jie in a light-hearted role after the hefty Castrati), a Neapolitan dance, a Spanish dance and a Mazurka.


Prince Siegfried (guest dancer Artem Ovcharenko from The Bolshoi Ballet) then entered followed by the dramatic lightning entrance of the Black Swan (guest dancer Kristina Kretova from The Bolshoi Ballet). Their teasing entreé was fun to watch. The pas des deux and solo variations which followed were all well executed; Ovcharenko’s grand jetés were effortless with muted landings and Kretova’s continuous pirouettes and fouettés won much applause as well.


Going back to classical ballet in the finale of the programme made a fulfilling finale to this celebration of Hong Kong Ballet’s 35th anniversary. Hopefully we can look forward to seeing the company reinvent tradition and engage in more modern repertoires in performances to come.


A Celebration of Dance is playing through Sunday at the Grand Cultural Center in TST. For more information, click here.



Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 3.0


No comment at the moment.

Post New Comment