[ENG] February Highlights
Rice from Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan – The 45th Anniversary Gala Programme by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre; Choreographer: Lin Hwai-min; Dancers (from top): Huang Pei-hua, Tsai Ming-yuan; Photo: Liu Chen-hsiang
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan – The 45th Anniversary Gala Programme
A sample of the greatest choreographies by Lin Hwai-min was offered by the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan which appeared in the opening week of this year’s Hong Kong Arts Festival. The company, a regular visitor to Hong Kong, presented a gala program entitled, “Retrospectives of Lin Hwai-Min’s Works”, to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the company which was founded by Lin.
The two-part program, which lasted for two hours, consisted of 11 excerpts from a selection of Lin’s most famous works. All the dancers in the troupe were technically formidable and possessed superb control in their movements. All the physicality was radiated from a calm center.
In the first half, the duet, “Autumn Path”, from Bamboo Dream was balletic, and was superbly danced by Huang Li-chieh and Huang Mei-ya. In Moon Water, set to Bach’s Cello Suites, a long beautiful serpentine solo was wonderfully performed by Huang Pei-hua. In Portrait of the Families, there was a political message, as the 1947 White Terror in Taiwan was evoked by means of recorded dialogues from the victims’ families.
In the second half, Rice had a lively ensemble bamboo dance as well as an expressive duet enhanced by videos of landscapes. And the “Black Angel” excerpt from Wind Shadow was grim and sinister. After this superb celebratory gala, Lin will sadly step down later this year as the artistic director. A new direction is in store for this renowned Taiwanese company.
The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby by Hong Kong Ballet; Choreographer: Septime Webre; Photo: Conrad Dy-Liacco
Earlier in February, the Hong Kong Ballet premiered a full-length work, The Great Gatsby, choreographed by its artistic director Septime Webre. Webre first created this ballet in 2010 for the Washington Ballet when he was its artistic director.
Lasting for two hours, this two-act production boasted attractive new designs by Tim Yip, who won an Academy Award in 2001. Video imageries by William Kwok and Tobias Gremmler, combining newsreel filmed in New York City in the 1920s, were also effective.
The jazz music score, composed by Billy Novick, was superbly performed by his own troupe. The Blues singer E. Faye Butler was a showstopper, winning the loudest applause in Act 2 with her solo. Also high on the applause meter was another guest, Wong Tan-ki, who performed impeccably the male tap dancing solo in Act 2. This tap solo, though undeniably spectacular, added no value to the narrative.
Webre’s “Gatsby” was extremely theatrical and had an easy pop appeal to the audience due to its high energy. However, one could not help feeling at times that the predominance of non-dance elements overshadowed the ballet dancing. To be fair, this new “Gatsby” seemed more in structure like a musical than a ballet.
Webre’s narrative was clear. All the main characters were quickly introduced in the beginning of Act 1. The flashback to how Gatsby first met Daisy when he was a poor army officer and Daisy’s marriage to the wealthy Tom was cleverly depicted. The tragic ending was succinctly depicted. However, the momentum sagged in the middle, especially in the ballroom party scenes set in Gatsby’s mansion.
Webre’s choreography was rather generic. The best dance was the ecstatic dream duet at the end of Act 1 when Gatsby dreamt of his beloved Daisy after his meeting with her through her cousin Nick. Also imaginative was the duet early in Act 1 for Tom and his mistress Myrtle during their secret telephone conversation. The golf duet for Nick and Jordan was also fun. The heart-tearing solo for George after his wife’s death in the car crash at the end of Act 2 had a raw emotional power. But the ballroom dances in the Gatsby mansion were monotonous and repetitive.
The first cast was excellent and had an edge over the other cast. Guest star, Matthew Golding, had charisma in the title role. Ye Feifei was glamorous as Daisy, with her body soft and yielding in the duets. Another guest, Brooklyn Mack, was powerful as George.
In another cast, Li Lin and Venus Villa in the leading roles were also a good match. Both were elegant in style. (Venus Villa’s debut as the ballerina in “The Nutcracker” last December was superb by the way.) Li Jiabo was impressive as Tom.
The Great Gatsby by Hong Kong Ballet; Choreographer: Septime Webre; Dancers: (from left)：Venus Villa, Li Lin; Photo: Conrad Dy-Liacco