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[中][Eng]美麗重溫:對芭蕾《睡美人》的個人看法 Beauty Revisited: A personal perspective on the ballet - Sleeping Beauty

(英文原文刊於2000年《舞蹈手札》2002年第四冊第三期 Originally published on dance journal/hk 2-4 in 2002)

複雜的心情,再加點不安;這是我在3月30日(星期六)晚上,進入沙田大會堂演奏廳,前往觀看香港芭蕾舞團《睡美人》之時的感受。如果要在我的舞者生涯中,選出一部令我對古典舞蹈感到五味紛陳的芭蕾作品,那就是佩蒂帕這部令人畏懼的傑作。

在我停止演出之後的許多年裡,我甚至無法令自己再去聽柴可夫斯基那輝煌的交響曲調,更不用說自願走進劇院看芭蕾舞演出了。在我十七年的職業生涯中,《睡美人》也許是我演出次數最多的作品,橫跨三大洲的主要舞團,從倫敦到悉尼再到約翰內斯堡的四個不同製作。《睡美人》就是這樣一部會勾起種種情感的芭蕾舞劇:強烈的興奮、焦慮、絕望的恐懼和徹底的無聊;有時,那是一言難盡的漫長,而又全都可以在一次演出中發生。

對於許多專業的古典舞者而言,《睡美人》體現了芭蕾舞的古典本質。有一句說話,雖然我不記得是出自何人,卻是每個有抱負的芭蕾舞者應該知道的一個恰當說法:『對於古典舞者來說,絕對重要的是對「第五腳位」的理解,但更為重要的是要忘記它。』但是,我相信唯一不適用此說的芭蕾劇是《睡美人》。「第五腳位」,並且知道如何使用它,是好好演出此劇的救生圈。沒有它,你就會如鐵達尼號般沉沒,而你是知道的!

儘管這個故事在許多人心目中仍然佔據著舉足輕重的地位--這在一定程度上要歸功於迪士尼--但它無疑是一個可以在20分鐘內便講完的故事。但是,在芭蕾中,這舞劇通常會持續超過三個小時。在佩蒂帕的時代,更是大約五小時;當然,在1890年的聖彼得堡,他們沒有「甜心俏佳人」(Aly McBeal)在家等著!令人感激的是,這個香港芭蕾舞團的最新製作只有兩個多小時,但仍然保留了所有精彩部份,還附上一點額外的東西。 佩蒂帕的風格,是毫不掩飾地將工匠般的舞蹈編排,配以嚴格遵循古典準則的精彩演出。這是一條創造卓越藝術的方程式--簡單、和諧、勻稱、完整。但要在每次表演中都掌握和重複,並不容易!

《睡美人》考驗了許多優秀的芭蕾舞團,香港芭蕾舞團也不例外。這製作對舞者、藝術人員和劇院技術人員都有嚴格的技術要求;他們的工作是把整個演出整合在一起。某本地舞評人對這製作所作出的好壞參半評論,其實既非完全出乎意料,亦不叫人驚奇。

1921年,謝爾蓋˙達基列夫(Serge Diaghaliev)採用Leon Bakst的新設計,首次在倫敦搬演了佩蒂帕的《睡美人》。這個製作也受到了褒貶不一的評價,並幾乎毀了達基列夫。但是觀眾喜歡它,而在今天,歷史已判定了它是偉大的藝術成就。重要的是,那個舞季向倫敦介紹了足本(full-length)故事芭蕾舞這個演出形式。結果,在達基列夫舞團從事過的藝術家妮涅特˙德瓦洛(Ninette DeValois)和瑪麗.藍貝特(Marie Rambert)的鼓勵下,芭蕾舞世界後來產生了由20世紀三位偉大編舞家所創作的多部足本敘事性芭蕾舞傑作。他們是弗雷德里克˙阿什頓、肯尼斯˙麥克米倫(Kenneth MacMillan)和約翰˙克蘭科。

在1990年代初期,新聞界批評了安東尼˙道威爾爵士(Sir Anthony Dowell)在考文特花園(Covent Garden)奢華製作的皇家芭蕾舞團《睡美人》。魯道夫˙努里耶夫(Rudolf Nureyev)於1975年在倫敦節日芭蕾舞團製作的《睡美人》也受到了褒貶不一的評論,但幾乎所有倫敦和巴黎的演出門票都賣個清光。同樣的情況也出現在英國其他14個地點的演出,以及為期六週,每週八場的澳洲巡演。我永遠不會忘記在珀斯娛樂中心舉行的開幕週,觀眾席容納了8000人。在那兒,我和許多節日芭蕾舞團的同事,都從艱難的教訓中學到了如何應對舞台上的突發事件,尤其是當我們在很努力地處理我們的「第五腳位」,以及忙於應付努里耶夫對尼古拉斯˙謝爾蓋耶夫(Nicholas Sergeyev)所排的佩蒂帕版本那複雜困難而古怪的演繹之時,努里耶夫那從側幕或其他地方傳來的大聲指導和其他不能說出口的東西。

在1890年的聖彼得堡的序幕 The prologue, St. Petersburg (1890)

《睡美人》歡迎所有來者的挑戰--舞者、導演、設計師、技術人員、指揮,甚至管弦樂團。後者有時聽起來就像救世軍樂隊一般。回想起在倫敦節日芭蕾舞團的演出,有很多次當我們在第三幕侍臣之舞中,穿著高跟鞋在舞台上匆匆穿插時,我們差點摔斷脖子,或至少是腳踝。指揮家看似吸了毒的莫扎特,以高速節拍指揮。那可能是受到舞團會計的指示,要不顧一切地將演出保持在三個小時以內,以避免向樂師們支付大量的加班費。

說回這次香港芭蕾舞團的製作,當序幕結束而進入第一幕時,我的首個印像是,舞團真的是迎難而上,但對於一個由四十一位舞者另加八名學生組成的舞團來說,我不知這是勇敢還是愚蠢。並不出乎意料的是,大多數觀眾都能一直跟隨著舞劇的推進,尤其是坐在我附近的小孩,也能像我一樣全程保持清醒。對於任何年輕的舞團來說,可以知其難而願意應付這一艱鉅的經典,並且不損其聲譽,這是藝術成熟的一個標誌。

彼得˙卡索列(Peter Cazalet)那令人耳目一新的設計、尹立賢(John Williams)的燈光、藝術總監謝傑斐(Stephen Jefferies)的附加編舞,以及葉穎詩指揮下的香港小交響樂團的伴奏,整個製作最後舒解了我最初的憂慮。在過去的16年中,我通常會明智地避免入場看《睡美人》,尤其是那些低成本的俄羅斯演出,無論製作價值、舞蹈編排和演出都糟透,卻經常來澳洲和亞洲招攬觀眾。

《睡美人》序幕的主要功能是以一些「仙子變奏」來炫耀一點古典舞蹈演出,並為隨後的主要故事定好氣氛。這些變奏並不是短篇古典舞最常見的炫耀舞技的那一類型,但也是一些講求技巧的舞段,挑戰舞者多於挑戰觀眾的欣賞能力。每個仙子都體現出古典主義那善良、純潔和保守的一切--貞潔、簡單及和諧。即使是最年輕的觀眾,也會留意到最輕的滑動、跳躍失誤或最微的不穩,令美麗的仙子可能落得不那麼漂亮。謝傑斐把這些通常是俗套平凡的獨舞從新編排,令人耳目一新之餘,也保留了古典舞蹈的核心:高水平的技巧能力和清晰的動作完成。

序幕的主角是丁香花仙子。對我來說,她演出的那節音樂,無疑是序幕中最適合舞蹈的一段;柴可夫斯基那洪亮的交響曲調,鼓動了舞蹈的力量。由頭到尾,演出這一角色的羅卓桃(Chancel Elizabeth Roulsten)都非常優雅,技術穩妥。其他仙子的演出都在技術上很有保證。我最喜歡的是「慷慨仙子雙人舞」。在這段編排有趣的變奏中,勞曉昕和鍾詠賢兩人之間感應敏銳,動作清晰。另外,亦要提及的是落合惠利子在「活潑仙子獨舞」中那猶如清風一習的出色演出,和高秀桃(Crystal Costa)在高難度的「勇敢仙子」中所展現的優美古典線條和精準度。然而,技壓這場序幕的,還是由耀眼的藤岡綾子所飾演的邪惡仙子卡拉波斯。

在一般的製作中,這個受委屈的仙子都是化上過濃的厚妝,看似更加適合主演電影《風塵三絕》中的「易服者」。這個製作卻不同,藤岡綾子的造型令人驚艷,身上那一襲閃閃發亮的黑色連衣裙,就算出現在香港芭蕾舞團週年舞會上也絕不遜色。她那動人心弦的舞蹈完全控制了整個舞台和劇情,而觀眾也給予對等的回應。忘了邀請這個仙子的人,應被扔到護城河的鱷魚群中!

第一幕的首段,是我在任何製作中見過的最好的「花環圓舞曲」之一。這段群舞精雕細琢,段落如詩,舞蹈優美,令人賞心悅目。卡索列的設計和尹立賢的燈光更放大了這幕的和煦自若。從這一點開始,我感到應該可以鬆一口氣,享受演出。

然而,在這令人愉快的開場之後,著名的「玫瑰慢版」(Rose Adage)那悅耳引子,又令我心頭一緊。對任何女芭蕾舞者來說,這一定是最嚴酷的進場安排之一。那裡還有舞蹈,會要頂尖的舞者在優雅地進入舞台時,走下一條很多時是搖搖晃晃的長樓梯,然後在大部分的舞段中以一腿腳尖來平衡身體,或被扶著「漫步旋轉」(promenaded),同時把右臂舉起放下?這看以容易的動作,其實是暗藏著很高的難度,可說是真的可怕。這不僅是女舞者的感受,至少,第三和第四位求婚王子也會有同感。

回憶,以及那些感覺,洶湧而來!我開始演出《睡美人》時,是從第三位王子開始,最終「晉升」成為最重要的第四位王子。雖然我們在這段舞蹈中完全不必擔心我們的「第五腳位」,但卻必須為她的擔心。這四名男子的責任,是確保女芭蕾舞舞者的「鶴立式舞姿」(attitude derrière)可以把後腿高高舉起,否則真的是罪當極刑。回想當年與國際客席藝術家合作,我們四個追求者有數次要在休假日被傳召排練--我說的並不是冒升中的年輕獨舞員,而是當年國際知名的名字,如Nata​​lie Marakova、Eva Evdokimova、Galina Panova和Dame Merle Park。就算是最強悍的女芭蕾舞者,在這段舞出錯也會摧毀她在餘下演出中的自我肯定。我們的堅定職責,就是維持她以單腿腳尖站立。

這次香港芭蕾舞團的演出,由舞姿悅目而擁有姣好古典線條的梁菲飾演奧羅拉公主,是她第二或第三次重演這個角色。在「玫瑰慢版」中,她顯得十分謹慎,不時會過度集中,但是這是情有可原的,因為她的處理方法是細心盤算和緊握時間,同時,她的舞伴也很明顯地確實知道她在做什麼。在她的信心和經驗完全成熟之前,我認為這是最佳的方式;之後,才可以預計個中風險。在所有芭蕾舞團中,通常是由團中最資深、經驗最豐富的舞伴來擔任這四位求婚王子。這個製作也不例外。

作為奧羅拉公主,梁看起來並不像一個端莊而受寵愛的十六歲女孩,會遵循她那威嚴而超然的父母的每一個願望。她的奧羅拉已經是一位美麗女子,這使她在第三幕「大雙人舞」中熠熠生輝。隨著第二幕中,她那帥氣的白馬王子出場,我深信香港芭蕾舞團已經成長為一家可以承受經典舞目嚴酷考驗的舞團。由優雅的藤野暢央(Nobuo Fuijino)飾演的弗洛里蒙德王子,每一寸都有王子風範,他的舞步也盡其應有的古典。技術穩妥、鎮定自如、有男子氣概和自信,真的令人看得暢快。

第二幕,當狩獵隊玩完那互相鞭打和鞭打那被蒙眼的可憐傢伙的虐待遊戲,再喝盡了「法國廉釀」後,他們離開舞台--去更換另一套舞衣--把弗洛里蒙德一人留在了舞台上。藤野暢央在他那演出優美的緩慢獨舞中,把那位隻影形單、悶悶不樂、心事重重的浪漫貴族演繹得完全令人信服。尤其難得的是,舞中沒有加入任何無意義而牽強的花巧技倆。《睡美人》的主題取材自17世紀法國詩人哲學家查爾斯˙佩羅(Charles Perrault)創作的故事,與所有童話相似,是浪漫文學創作的產物。有如佩蒂帕的許多芭蕾舞製作,這些主題通常都只是次要。但是,在這幕中,很高興看到這位才華橫溢的舞者,能夠以這種古典舞蹈風格,展現出至少是一個非常值得稱讚的浪漫理想主義外表。

當另一段精彩的群舞展開時,我真的開始喜歡上這個製作。那是一段通常被稱為「幻景」或「仙女」的舞蹈。謝傑斐的編舞展示了他本人的歷史和承傳,以及對古典形式和結構的知識和理解。這節由藤野、梁和丁香仙子羅卓桃帶領的舞蹈設計奇妙,對我來說是這舞劇的一大亮點。不時四顧,很容易就看到有如這種古典形式的娛樂所帶來的樂趣,當中的編舞、音樂、設計和裝飾種種元素凝聚成一個整體。

「初醒」一場,公主已因被刺而沉睡了百年。這個製作免卻了弗洛里蒙德很多時都要面對的繁瑣而漫長的旅程。不用穿越密林、紅樹林和污染毒霧,王子便可以以其著名的撮嘴,印在那優美地躺在富麗堂皇的基座上、雙腳還挺得尖尖的公主之上。在努里耶夫的製作中,這一場要拖拉上好一會,以提供剛好足夠的時間給女群舞員更換舞衣,好讓她們再次登上壁壘,與在一百年零四十五分鐘之前已入睡的我們男舞者會合。然而,我們往往都在這個場景中,從飾演王子的努里耶夫、老而彌堅的丁香仙子和魁梧的舞台技師之間那緊湊而趣味十足的對話中得到娛樂;後者同時也要在王子的船內瘋狂地踩著踏板,推動它不停蜿蜒曲折地橫越舞台,最後到達我們的腳下。

接著,就只差一個動作,便把這齣芭蕾舞劇帶到其中最精彩的一段;幸運的是,在這個香港的製作中,它很快就來臨,而坐在我身邊的每個小女孩都肯定在期待著。在美妙的音樂高潮中,英俊的王子親吻了最美麗的公主。在這個浪漫的童話故事的迷人一刻,我也感到脊骨上一陣奇異的抽搐。

至此,故事就說完了。我們都知道他們以後將永遠幸福地生活在天堂般的幸福中,而且保證不會收到任何帳單。但是,婚禮這一個小問題,為最後的第三幕提供了理據。雖然沒有實際可見的儀式,但我看那大雙人舞應該是象徵了他們的婚禮。這香港芭蕾舞蹈團的第三幕,在編舞方面是相當標準的形式,直接了當、毫不掩飾地展示舞蹈。這也是1890年舞劇原創時的意圖。

頭戴白假髮、腳踏高跟鞋的侍臣之舞,節奏比我記得的更為合理。緊接著,弗洛雷斯坦親王和他的兩個姐妹開始了主程序--但是,這些人是誰?這段《弗洛雷斯坦三人舞》,是芭蕾舞中最不叫人感激卻最具挑戰的舞段之一。「第五腳位」是這舞的技巧準繩,如果鬆散了,舞蹈看起來可以很單調、老套,而且平淡無味,因為除了最直接的舞蹈專業技巧,它什麼也沒有。演出的三位舞者富村京子(Kyoko Tomimura)、勞曉昕和白家樂(Carlo Pacis)顯然已能迎接挑戰,並以他們的魅力和準確技巧完成挑戰。我喜歡這段插舞那較快的速度,這進一步要求三人在技巧上更加要全力以赴。他們看起來是十足的自我享受,也跳活了舞蹈的編排。

接下來是三短節動物角色雙人舞,包括藍鳥和弗洛琳公主、靴貓和白貓,以及可親但不幸的小紅帽和大灰狼。「藍鳥」是奧運會200米跨欄比賽的芭蕾舞版本,足以叫那雄鳥決心戒菸。當你舞到最後一組「六次交織碰擊」時,你會覺得自己的胸膛快要爆裂了。可是,跳蹦蹦的日高賢二(Kenji Hidaka)跳得好,而演弗洛琳公主的黃愷愉技巧準繩,給予他很好的扶持。

對於孩子們來說,那兩隻身穿可愛而華麗貓服的貓貓,可能是最令他們難忘的一段插舞。短短的,卻充滿了個性,並且編舞與音樂保持一致。最後的小紅帽和大灰狼,通常是三節中最弱的部分,我想是由於它總是放在大雙人舞之前,所以不能搶了主要段落的風頭。可是,我有點喜歡這段通常是無聊而瑣碎的插舞,因為這頭香港狼比較活潑,而且看上去真的能舞。周錦欣演的小紅帽,在舞台上總是陽光燦爛、生氣勃勃,很難想像有其他人能夠演活這個傻裡傻氣的角色。為什麼站在四周的侍臣們沒有警告她,落在那隻貪嘴的食肉獸手中所面臨的厄運?他們睡著了嗎?那滑稽的醉酒祖父和他的大鎗,又在哪裡?噢,對不起,這是不同的派對!

《睡美人》的高潮是弗洛里蒙德王子和奧羅拉公主的大雙人舞。在這製作中,這舞是以標準材料以極其精工巧製而成。兩位首席舞者的演繹充滿了自信,以他們出色的舞蹈,放在世界上任何一個大型歌劇院的舞台上都不會格格不入。從她在第一幕的初次登場以來,梁在整個芭蕾舞中的自信和技巧就不斷提高,並以照人的光彩完成這最後的雙人舞。她的獨舞和終曲以極高的技術精準度完成,並提供了機會去展示她那出眾的古典線條。藤野無疑是一位與她匹配的舞伴,一直維持著他於開始演出時的高度舞蹈水平和沉著自如,而他的拍檔技巧也很傑出。各自單觸來說,我認為這是我從這兩位優秀藝術家身上看到的最佳演出。要在一部主要經典中做到這樣,實非易事。

《睡美人》,是香港芭蕾舞團舞目中有價值的新增之作,在經過一些微調後,應讓觀眾定期觀看。這是一個討大眾喜愛的作品,一個明智而可觀的製作,並不假意模仿擁有上百舞者和深厚傳統的大型芭蕾舞團。將兩者比較是荒謬的。這部作品自有其亮光,但最重要的還是它在處理上的誠懇。

它還展示了團中許多優秀的舞者。就像舞團出色的《胡桃夾子》和值得表揚的《天鵝湖》一樣,《睡美人》挑戰了舞者的古典水平,在把廣受歡迎的經典芭蕾舞劇展示給香港的工作上,做到了真誠有節。

It was with bemused interest and a slight foreboding that I entered Sha Tin Town Hall auditorium on Saturday evening, 30 March, to watch Hong Kong Ballet's Sleeping Beauty. If there was one ballet that engendered a range of mixed feelings about classical dance when I was a dancer, it was this formidable masterpiece from Petipa's repertoire.

For many years after I stopped dancing I could not even bring myself to listen to Tchaikovsky's glorious symphonic melodies, let alone voluntarily walk into a theatre to see a performance of the ballet. I performed Sleeping Beauty perhaps most throughout my seventeen-year professional career, one that spanned major ballet companies on three continents and four different productions - from London to Sydney to Johannesburg. I escaped it in Stockholm with the Royal Swedish Ballet, since the Swedish dancers voted

it out of the repertoire just before I joined. Sleeping Beauty is a ballet that causes feelings of sheer excitement, anxiety, abject fear, and utter boredom; sometimes, unmentionable hours of it, and all can occur during the course of a single show.

To many professional classical dancers, Sleeping Beauty epitomizes what is essentially classical about ballet. I cannot remember the author, but an apt expression of what every aspiring ballet dancer should know is: "Of absolutely vital importance for classical dancers is to understand 5th position, but even more important is for them to forget it". However, I believe the only ballet to which this does not apply is Sleeping Beauty, where 5th position, and knowing how to use it, is your life buoy for a good performance. Without it - you sink like the Titanic and you know it!

While the story still has a preeminent place in the minds of many, thanks in part to Disney, it is unquestionably one that could probably be told in about 20 minutes. In ballet, however, it often stretches to over three hours. In Petipa's day it lasted around five. Well, in 1890 St. Petersburg, they didn't have Aly McBeal to go home to! Mercifully, this latest production by the Hong Kong Ballet is just over two hours yet still manages to have all the good bits plus a bit more. Petipa's style was unashamedly to pad the action with workman-like choreography along with brilliant dancing that strictly adhered to the classical canon - a formula for excellence in art - simple, harmonious, well proportioned and finished. Not an easy feat to master and repeat at every performance!

Carlotta Brianza as Princess Aurora, St. Petersburg (1890)

Sleeping Beauty has tested many a fine ballet company, and Hong Kong Ballet was no exception. The production placed rigorous technical demands on dancers, artistic staff, and theatre technical personnel who had the job of pulling the whole thing together. One local critic offered the production a not totally unexpected and un-surprisingly mixed review.

In 1921, Serge Diaghaliev staged Petipa's Sleeping Beauty for the first time in London with new designs by Leon Bakst. It was a production that also met with mixed reviews and almost ruined Diaghaliev. But audiences loved it and history now determines it a great artistic success. Importantly, that season introduced London to the full-length story ballet format. As a result, with encouragement from former Diaghaliev company artists, Ninette DeValois and Marie Rambert, the ballet world was later rewarded with full-length narrative ballet masterworks by three of the 20th Century's great choreographers. Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan and John Cranko.

In the early 1990s the press panned Sir Anthony Dowell's extravagant Royal Ballet Sleeping Beauty production at Covent Garden. Rudolf Nureyev's London Festival Ballet Sleeping Beauty production in 1975 also met with mixed reviews, but it just about sold out every performance in London and Paris, as well as at fourteen other centers in the UK and a six-week, eight shows-a-week, tour of Australia. I will never forget our opening week at Perth's Entertainment Center, to a capacity house of 8,000. It was there where. many of my Festival Ballet colleagues and I, learned hard lessons on how to cope with the unexpected on stage, especially Nureyev shouting instructions and other unmentionables from the wings or elsewhere as we grappled with our 5th positions and his tricky and quirky interpretation of Nicholas Sergeyev's version of Petipa.

Sleeping Beauty takes on all comers - dancers, directors, designers, technicians, conductors and even orchestras. These latter sounding, at times, like Salvation Army bands. I recall a number of performances with London Festival Ballet where we nearly broke our necks, or at least our ankles, careening around stage in high-heeled shoes in the third act courtier's dance. The conductor, looking like Mozart on speed, took the tempos at a rate of knots, presumably on instructions from the company accountant, desperate to keep the production under three hours and thus avoid paying hefty overtime to musicians.

Nevertheless, my first impression toward the end of the prologue and into Act I of Hong Kong Ballet's production was that the company had taken the task head on, either a brave or foolish move for a company of forty-one supplemented by eight students. As was not unexpected, the majority of the audience was with it all the way, especially young children sitting near me who managed, like me, to remain awake for its entirety. It is a sign of artistic maturity for any young company, to knowingly and willingly take on this daunting classic, and manage to do it credit.

The production, with delightfully fresh designs by Peter Cazalet, lighting by John Williams, additional choreography by Artistic Director Stephen Jefferies, and accompanied by the Hong Kong Philharmonic under the masterful baton of Yip Wing-sie, eventually managed to sooth my initial apprehensions. Over the past sixteen years, I have usually avoided, wisely I would say, going to productions of Sleeping Beauty, especially those dreadful shoe-string budget Russian ones with horrendous production values, choreography, and dancing often touted around Australia and Asia.

The main function of Sleeping Beauty's prologue is to show off a bit of classical dancing in the shape of a number of 'fairies variations', and to set the mood for the main action that follows. These variations are not of the outwardly bravura type most associated with short classical dances, but nonetheless are technical vignettes that challenge the dancer more than the audience's ability to enjoy. Each fairy embodies everything that is good, uncontaminated, and conservative about classicism - chaste, simple and harmonious. The slightest slip, incorrect hop, or smallest stumble, would be noticed by even the youngest members of the audience. The beautiful fairy might come off not looking so beautiful after all. It was refreshing to see these solos reworked by Jefferies from what is often mundanely standard fare. Nonetheless, they retain a high level of technical competence and clarity of execution that is the core of classical dancing.

The chief protagonist is the Lilac Fairy, whose dancing in the prologue is emboldened by a resonant Tchaikovsky symphonic tune and undoubtedly, I think, the prologue's best piece of danceable music. Chancel Elizabeth Roulsten in this role was truly graceful and technically assured throughout. The other fairies all danced with technical surety. My favorite was the duet for the Fairies of the Woodland Glade. Irene Lo and Ivy Chung performed this variation with lucidity and an adroit awareness of each other in a piece that was choreographically interesting. Mention should also go to Eriko Ochaia who breezed brilliantly through the Songbird solo and Crystal Costa who showed fine classical line and precision in the difficult Fairy of the Golden Vine. However, the prologue really belonged to the dazzling Ayako Fuijioka as the wicked fairy, Carabosse.

This wronged fairy was not the usual over-made-up 'dragster' who would look more at home in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Ms. Fuijioka was absolutely stunning in her

glittering black dress that would not be out of place at the annual Hong Kong Ballet Ball. She commanded the stage and action with her sensational dancing, and the audience reacted accordingly. Whoever left this fairy off the invitation list should be thrown to the crocs in the moat!

Act I opened with one of the best Garland dances I have seen in any production. This corps de ballet number was skilfully crafted, lyrically phrased, beautifully danced and very pleasing to look at. Cazalet's designs and William's lighting in this Act offered a greater scale of sunny composure. From this point on, I thought I could relax and enjoy.

However, following this pleasant opening, my stomach began to tighten at the introduction of the famous Rose Adage's dulcet tones. This must be one of the most un-forgiving opening entrances for any ballerina. Where else does the leading dancer gracefully enter the stage, usually down a long rickety staircase, and then spend most of the number balancing, or being promenaded, on one leg enpointe, while lifting her right arm up and down. What may look easy is deceptively difficult and down right scary, not only for her, but also for at least the third and fourth suitors in her pack of princes.

Memories, and those feelings, came flooding back! I started off as the third prince eventually graduating to the fourth and main one, and while we didn't have to worry at all about our 5th positions in this dance, we certainly had to worry about hers. The responsibility placed on the four men to ensure the ballerina remained with her leg aloft in attitude derrière was considered punishable by death if not met. I can recall a number of occasions, working with international guest artists, when we four suitors would be called in on our day off to rehearse - and I'm not talking about a young up-and-coming soloist doing it for the first time, but international names of the day, like Natalie Marakova, Eva Evdokimova, Galina Panova and Dame Merle Park. To fumble this dance could destroy even the hardiest ballerina's resolve of a self-assured performance for the remainder of the ballet. It was our steadfast duty to keep her enpointe.

In the Hong Kong Ballet production, Faye Leung, a lovely dancer with an exquisite classical line, reprised her Princess Aurora role for the second or third time. In the Rose Adage. she was careful and overtly concentrated at times, but that can be forgiven, as her approach was calculated and timely, and it was clear that her partners knew exactly what she was doing. Hers is the best way I believe, until confidence and experience develops to full maturity when risks can be premeditated. In all ballet troupes the responsibility for the four suitor princes is usually given to the most senior and experienced partners in the company. There was no exception in this production.

As princess Aurora, Leung does not really look like a modest, cosseted sixteen-year-old who obeys every wish of her majestic, detached parents; her Aurora is already a beautiful woman, and this allows her to shine splendidly in the third act grand pas de deux. With the Act II introduction of her handsome Prince Charming, I was convinced that Hong Kong Ballet had come of age as a company that could withstand the rigors of the classic repertoire. Prince Florimund. danced by the elegant Nobuo Fuijino, looked every inch a prince, and his dancing was every bit as classical as it should be. He was technically secure, poised, manly and confident, a real pleasure to see.

Once the Act II hunting party finished their masochistic game of whipping each other and the poor blindfolded sod, and quaffed the last of their Chateau box de plonk, they departed - for yet another costume change - leaving Florimund alone on stage. Fuijino gave full credence to the detached, brooding, pensive romantic aristocrat in a beautifully danced slow solo, which thankfully was devoid of gratuitous and vulgar tricks. The subject matter of Sleeping Beauty, adapted from a story by the 17th Century French poet philosopher Charles Perrault, and like all fairy tales, a product of romantic literary invention, is, as in many productions of Petipa's ballets, usually of secondary consideration. But it was pleasing to see this talented dancer display at least a very laudable veneer of romantic idealism in the classical style of his dancing in this act.

I really began to enjoy this production as yet another splendidly danced corps de ballet piece, acknowledged in most productions as the vision scene or simply, the nymphs, unfolded. Stephen Jefferies' choreography illustrated his own history and heritage and his knowledge and understanding of the classical form and structure. This marvelously designed dance section led by Fuijino, Leung, and Lilac Fairy, Roulston, was one of the highlights of the ballet for me. Looking around at times, it was easy to see the pleasure that entertainment such as this classical form brings, where elements of choreography, music, design, and decor provide a cohesive totality.

The 'awakening' scene in this production, where the previously pricked princess who has been in slumber for a hundred years, was spared Florimund's often tedious lengthy journey through an odd assortment of overgrown jungle, mangroves and foggy pollution, to plant the famous pucker on his princess as she lies delicately poised on a

palatial plinth with both feet pointed. In Nurcyev's production, this scene did drag on, providing just enough time for a costume change for the corps de ballet girls, so they could take their places on the ramparts again with us boys, where we'd all fallen asleep a hundred years and forty-five minutes previously. However, we were often entertained in this scene by the lush dialogue that ensued between Rudi as the prince, the tough old Lilac Fairy, and the burley stage technician, who peddled furiously in the bowels of the princely boat, as it zigzagged endlessly across the stage to finally arrive at our feet.

Fortunately, the action leading to one of best bits of the ballet in the Hong Kong production came quickly, and was certainly anticipated by every little girl sitting around me. In a wonderfully gorgeous musical climax, the handsome prince kisses the most beautiful of all princesses. Even I felt the odd twinge of the spine at this romantically enchanted fairy tale moment.

From this point on the story is complete, and we all know they will live happily ever after in heavenly bliss without ever having to pay a gas bill. However, there is the small matter of a wedding that provides the reason for a third and final Act. No actual recognizable ceremony takes place but I presume the grand pas de deux is symbolic of their nuptials. The Hong Kong Ballet Act III is fairly standard fare in choreographic terms, and it got straight down to the business of providing blatant displays of dancing, also the intent in the original 1890 ballet.

Following a white wigged. high-heeled courtier's dance, taken at a more reasonable tempo from what I recall. Prince Florestan and his two sisters open the main proceedings - but who are these people? Known as the Florestan pas de trois, it is one of the most thankless but challenging pieces in the ballet. If you loose your 5th position, in other words your technical veracity in this piece, it can look drab, hackneyed and just plain dull, for it has nothing to offer apart from straight forward technical expertise. The three dancers who performed the suite, Kyoko Tomimura, Irene Lo, and Carlo Pacis were clearly up to the challenge and cut through their work with flair and technical precision. I liked the quicker speed of this divertissement, which further stretched the trio's technical skills. They looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves and brought the choreography to life.

Next follows a trilogy of short animal character pas de deux in the form of the Blue Bird and Princess Florine, Puss 'n Boots and White Cat, and the dear little but unfortunate Red Riding Hood and an overgrown wolf. The Blue Birds are the ballet version of an Olympic 200-meter sprint and hurdle race, and justification for the male of the species to quit smoking. By the time you get to the last entrechat six you feel like your chest is about to burst. Anyway, the bouncing Kenji Hidaka did a good job and was well supported by the technically exact Angel Wong as Princess Florine.

For children, the two pussycats in their cute feline finery are probably the most memorable divertissement. The scene is short, full of characterization and choreographically consistent with the music. The last bit is for Red Riding Hood and wolf, usually the weakest part of the third act, and always placed just before the grand pas de deux so as to not up-stage the main event, I presume. However, I sort of liked this often boring and trivial divertissement, as this Hong Kong wolf was a bit livelier and looked like he could really dance. Selina Chau, as little Red Riding Hood, is always sunny and vivacious on stage and it is hard to think of anyone else who could do this silly role justice. Why don't the courtiers standing around warn her of her impending doom at the hands of that voracious carnivore, maybe they're asleep? Also, where is the hilarious drunken grandfather with the big gun? Oh, sorry, wrong party!

The climatic event of Sleeping Beauty is prince Florimund and princess Aurora's grand pas de deux. In this production it was extremely well crafted from somewhat standard material. The interpretation by the two principals had an air of confidence, and with their excellent dancing it would not look out of place on any of the world's great opera house stages. Leung grew in self-assurance and skill throughout the ballet from her initial entrance in Act I, and performed this final duet with radiance. Her solo and coda were executed with technical precision and provided an opportunity to display her striking classical line. Fuijino was certainly a match for her as he maintained the same high standard of dancing and composure of his earlier entrance. His partnering was excellent. This was the best dancing I think I'd seen from either of these fine artists. To achieve this in a major classic is no easy feat.

Hong Kong Ballet's Sleeping Beauty is a worthy addition to its repertoire and, after some minor fine-tuning, should be seen on a regular basis. It is a crowd pleaser. A sensible and likeable production that doesn't pretend to ape those of the big ballet troupes having a hundred or so dancers and many more years of tradition. To compare this production to those is nonsensical. This production had a sparkle about it and above all, an honesty in its treatment.

It also showcases the many fine company dancers. Like the company's excellent Nutcracker and its praiseworthy Swan Lake, this Sleeping Beauty challenges the dancers' classical standard while at the same time, maintains its integrity in the presentation of universally popular classic ballets to Hong Kong.

編輯手記 Editor's Note

本日分享兩篇由兩位香港演藝學院的前導師以古典芭蕾舞為題的文章。

前芭蕾舞系主任高家霖(Graeme Collins)在觀看香港芭蕾舞團於2002年的《睡美人》時,以其舞者及觀眾身份,用幽默言語評論此劇,並同時分享了歷史中多齣同一劇目的小故事。

另一篇由舞蹈學院前院長施素心(Susan Street)以《古典芭蕾舞為何古典》為題,詳細講述古典芭蕾舞的時期、風格、外觀、技術、音樂、設計/裝飾、故事情節等各個背景及特點。文章內容豐富詳盡,具跨越年代的可讀性。

這兩篇很不一樣的文章以兩個不同的角度出發。一篇是以個人主觀角度,與讀者分享作者於不同人生階段對同一作品之不同製作的體驗,另一篇是以較宏觀角度嚴肅地探索古典芭蕾舞之根源及本質。但是,兩文的內容有不少相交之處;後者為前者提供了更全面的背景資料,而前者又可看作為對後者的一個專題探討。當中既有互相印證的地方,也有一些觀點不同的看法。兩文相互對讀非常有趣。

Today I’m sharing two articles on the subject of classical ballet written by two former faculty members of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts School of Dance.

Graeme Collins, the former head of the ballet department, wrote A personal perspective on the ballet - Sleeping Beauty after watching Hong Kong Ballet's production in 2002. As a dancer and an audience member, he comments on the dance with humour as well as insight and shares with the readers his experiences in, and some stories about, several productions of this classic work.

Written by Prof. Susan Street, the former Dean of Dance, the article What is Classical about Classical Ballet? searches for the roots of the genre, and discusses the background and characteristics of various aspects of classical ballet, including period, style, look, technique, music, design/decor, and storyline. The article is rich in information and details that are still relevant now, 20 years after its publication. The starting points of the two articles are entirely different.

One is written from a personal perspective, sharing with the readers the author’s experience in different productions of the same work at different stages of his life as well as reviewing a new production, while the other is a more objective attempt to explore the roots and essence of classical ballet from a macro perspective. However, their views intersect from time to time. Prof. Street’s piece provides comprehensive background information for the one by Mr. Collins, and we could also read his piece as a case study to illustrate hers. While there are areas where the two writers are in agreement with each other, they also offer some different points of view, which makes interesting to read the two articles together.

客席編輯Guest Editor: 劉秀群Cathy Lau Sau Kwan | 翻譯Translation:施德安 Cecil Sze

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