Dancers: Yao Jin, Wei Wei , Photo: Conrad Dy-Liacco
Roles for ballerinas range from regal (any princess), other worldly (spirits and animals alike), to fully-fledged flesh and blood women (think Manon) and at the end of the spectrum, psychotics (Anastasia, Mary Vetsera). Fitting in the third category is the mature and beautiful courtesan, Marguerite, in Lady of the Camellias who falls in love with a young man (fatefully respectable and poor), only to be requested to leave him by his self-righteous father, and who then dies of tuberculosis.
This tragic but glamorous narrative is adapted for ballet by American choreographer Val Caniparoli. The ballet is a fitting and timely addition to the repertoire of Hong Kong Ballet, offering principal ballerina Jin Yao, celebrating 20 years on stage, a meaty role at this point in her career. Not to mention the two other leading ladies taking on the challenge, Liu Yu-yao, more ethereal in type, but an instinctive dramatic actress, puts careful thought into the journey Marguerite goes through. Ye Fei-fei, a naturally extremely attractive dancer, is more at ease embodying the popular socialite.
The production gives superb opportunities for principals and soloists, especially the men. Val Caniparoli draws out the story more than Frederick Ashton's Marguerite and Armand, based on the same story, creating sizeable dancing parts, with dramatic demands, for a rival, a friend, their partners, and Marguerite's original lover.
Having more characters, however, presents further challenges. The very first pas de deux of the ballet is between Marguerite and the Baron (her original lover), and immediately after, what should be the central pas de deux between Marguerite and Armand follows. It takes clear and superb acting to differentiate the two relationships, perhaps if choreographically the steps of the two duets were more distinctive, the audience would find it easier to comprehend.
Finally, Caniparoli completes the full-length performance structure of three acts by having party and ballroom scene for the corps de ballet. One could wish for bigger scale corps dancing to really add volume to the production.
Wonderfully danced, with renowned pianist Colleen Lee playing a marathon of Chopin concertos to accompany the whole story, and Louise Kwong and Albert Lim singing, Lady of the Camellias shows Hong Kong Ballet is a world-class company capable of delivering great dramatic productions.
is a dance enthusiast and a political commentator specializing in European politics. His favorite choreographer is Frederick Ashton and he idolizes Tamara Rojo as an all-round dance ambassador.
Performance: Lady of the Camellias
Date: 4 November 2016
Venue: Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
Review from a Dance Enhance 2016 Participant
Dance Enhance: Dance Appreciation & Criticism Writing Project 2016 is a five-month workshop begun in September 2016 that aims at providing foundation knowledge of dance appreciation and criticism to aspiring dance writers. Structured with a series of lectures, workshops, discussion sessions, and attendance at performances, the workshop helps participants to develop knowledge on different dance types, appreciation skills and techniques in review writing under the guidance of dance experts.
The review was written by Tom Wan, a Dance Enhance participant.