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[ENG] A Summer of Ballet

Giselle by La Scala Ballet; Dancers: Nicoletta Manni, Timofej Andrijashenko; Photo: Brescia e Amisano

Stars of Tomorrow

In mid-August, I attended the annual Stars of Tomorrow show presented by the Jean M. Wong School of Ballet in Shatin Town Hall. Every year I cannot fail to be impressed by the high quality and professionalism shown by the students of the school, as well as the students participating in the International Summer Dance School.

This year, the students were ambitious to dance the difficult 19th - century classic La Bayadere,

which formed the second half of this programme. But due to a clash in schedule, I only attended the first half of this show, which consisted of eight different numbers spanning a good variety of styles and moods.

As a bonus to the audience, prominent guest stars from overseas grace this show every year. This year, the highlight was the Don Quixote pas de deux performed by two stars from the Universal Ballet in South Korea. Kang Si Mun and Konstantin Novoselov were dazzling in their technical virtuosity.

Let’s turn to the students’ own performances. Gayanne was danced with high spirits by the whole cast. The staging by the Russian teacher Andrei Matinkine was fine. A good contrast was provided by a modern dance number HAA set to Max Richter’s music, and well performed by the Level 3 students of the International Summer School.

Also enjoyable was a jolly number Haste set to Ponchielli, and also choreographed by Matinkine for the Level 3 students. The junior Level 1 students in turn showed off their skills in Vivaldi Giocoso choreographed by Linda Gelinas.

Hong Kong Ballet ALICE (in wonderland)

Hong Kong Ballet opened its new 2018/9 season in the same weekend to full houses with a premiere of Alice in Wonderland. This two-act production is by its artistic director Septime Webre. Act 1 has a prologue and four different scenes, while Act 2 has three scenes.

Stage effects are impressive, and occasionally recall Disney and Cirque du Soleil. The first scene Down the Rabbit Hole makes extensive use of fly wires. Alice reaching gigantic size to the top of the ceiling while dancing on pointe is spectacular and delighted the children. The second scene Pool of Tears makes clever use of blue fabric to depict the sea where Alice is swimming.

This second scene is the best in the whole ballet in terms of choreography. The divertissements, with a duet for the eaglet and the dodo bird at the centre, as well as dance for a female corps de ballets of flamingos, provide a satisfying scope of classical dancing. The virtuosic solos of the eaglet and the dodo bird are exciting. The choreography for the rest of the ballet is however average.

Act 1 ought to have ended here on this high note of excitement. However, there are still two more scenes which are a bit of an anticlimax. Act 2 is fortunately shorter, and is mainly about the Queen of Hearts’ garden party and the final trial of Alice. In between, the dragon dance and the fireflies dance are pleasant. However, the final scene when Alice dismisses the Queen of Hearts is too abrupt.

Venus Villa was superb in the title role. Guest dancer Brooklyn Mack was sensational as both the dodo bird and the joker. Jin Yao was a menacing Queen. Shen Jie was good as the White Rabbit, and Li Jiabo impressed as Lewis Carrol. The student boy who danced the solo in the cards scene in Act 2 also deserves a mention. James Kronzer’s set designs are excellent.

Giselle by La Scala Ballet; Dancers: Nicoletta Manni, Timofej Andrijashenko; Photo: Brescia e Amisano

La Scala Ballet Giselle

La Scala Ballet, the most renowned dance company in Italy, danced Giselle in Macao Cultural Centre in September. This version of Giselle was produced by Yvette Chauvire, a former star of the Paris Opera Ballet, with sumptuous designs by Alexandre Benois. The backdrop in Act 1 depicting an autumnal landscape is particularly beautiful. The choreographic text is faithful to the traditional version. It’s a pity however that the traditional mime of Bertha, Giselle’s mother, foretelling the tragedy has been excised.

This also happened to be the same programme that they brought to the Hong Kong Arts Festival in 2014. This time in Macao, it was rewarding to see the first cast led by two of the company’s own principals – Nicoletta Manni, and Timofej Andrijashenko who was only promoted to principal dancer in April this year. Both are only in their twenties.

Manni was superb in the title role. In Act 1, she was convincing as the innocent peasant girl, and her mad scene at the end was dramatic. In Act 2, Manni was ethereal as the wili. She was touching in the duet, partnered by Andrijashenko.

Andrijashenko is a handsome and elegant blond dancer. His acting was heartfelt; his remorse at the end of Act 1 was moving. In Act 2, he displayed his remarkable technical virtuosity. His cabrioles in his solo were very high, and his entrechats in the coda were breathtaking. The ending when he slowly advanced to the front of the stage after Giselle’s disappearance was very moving. It was certainly an exciting partnership. No wonder they won prolonged curtain calls from the audience at the end.

=== Kevin Ng​ started reviewing dance in 1997. He has contributed to many publications including The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal Asia, Hong Kong Economic Journal, South China Morning Post, Time Out Hong Kong, Moscow Times, Ballet Review (USA), and Ballet 2000 (Italy).

Stars of Tomorrow Artistic Director: Jean M. Wong Performance: 18 August 2018 19:30 Auditorium, Shatin Town Hall ALICE (in wonderland) Choreographer: Septime Webre Performance: 17 August 2018 19:30 Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Giselle Choreography: Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot Choreographic revival: Yvette Chauviré Performance: 7 September 2018 20:00 Grand Auditorium Macao Cultural Centre


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