Hong Kong Ballet Swan Lake, Original Choreography: Marius Petipa & Lev Ivanov, Additional Choreography: John Meehan, Carlo Pacis, Selina Chau.
Photo Credit: Tony Luk
Hong Kong Ballet (HKB) opened its 2016/2017 season with a revival of John Meehan’s sound, straightforward production of Swan Lake, last seen in 2013.
One of HKB’s biggest problems is that it simply doesn’t perform often enough for the dancers to build their experience and skills. There’s no substitute for being on stage - the more you perform, the better you are. Swan Lake has two key assets for the company in this regard: it offers a lot of good roles and it sells a lot of tickets, making possible an extended run (four shows at Yuen Long plus five at the Cultural Centre) with no fewer than four casts. The benefits of this were obvious in the confidence and cohesion with which the company performed at the shows I attended.
I saw two principal casts. After a stint in Korea with Universal Ballet, former Soloist Ye Fei-fei makes a welcome return to Hong Kong as a Principal this season. I much enjoyed her Odette/Odile in 2013 and it was a pleasure to see her renew her old partnership with Wei Wei, a gallant and attentive Prince. Her technique is splendidly assured - in Act 2 a painfully slow rendition of the score by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta under Malcolm Pope certainly showed off her rock-solid balances, although the lack of musical momentum made it hard to generate much emotion. She was a glittering Black Swan despite coming to grief on the 32 fouettés, usually one of her strengths. (The attempt to perform them like a male dancer, with leg straight out to the side, was misjudged - Ye is too good a dancer to need this kind of stunt.)
The other couple I saw (luckily for them, with music played at a more suitable speed) had both danced their roles for the first time only the week before. As Prince Siegfried, 23 year old Ryo Kato was a revelation. Blessed with a soaring jump and a lovely amplitude of movement along with height and good looks, this young artist has the potential to become an outstanding danseur noble. His ballerina, Liu Yu-yao, danced expressively in Act 2 and while she doesn't have the virtuosity needed for the Black Swan she did a characteristically fine acting job, her gleefully wicked Odile well contrasted with her touching Odette.
The male roles in the Act 1 pas de quatre were danced in dazzling style by the ever-elegant Shen Jie and Leung Chun-long, a young Hong Kong dancer who is making impressive progress. The Act 2 Cygnets were performed with flawlessly fast, crisp footwork by Dong Rui-xue, Naomi Yuzawa, Yumiko Fukuda, and Yuri Moriwaki. In the Act 3 national dances Liu Miao-miao showed off her lovely fluidity in the Russian and Wang Qing-xin was deliciously flirtatious in the Spanish, with dashing support from Li Jia-bo, Li Lin, and Lukas Jerkander. Leung and Jessica Burrows brought bravura to the Hungarian and there was a sparkling, light as air Neapolitan from Shen and Dong.
The corps de ballet was in good form throughout. The swans were precise and harmonious in Act 2 while in Act 1, the demanding ensemble sequences created by Carlo Pacis, which effectively require the whole corps to dance the kind of choreography usually given to soloists, were danced better than I have ever seen them.
Dancers: Zhi-yao Chen, Jia-bo Li.
Photo Credit: Tony Luk
is the dance critic of the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong correspondent of international dance magazine Dancing Times. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Hong Kong Dance Alliance and a recipient of the Hong Kong Dance Award for Services to Dance.
Dates: 26 August 2016 (7:30pm); 27 August 2016 (2:30pm)
Venue: Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre