PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 February, 2010, 12:00am

Hong Kong Ballet
Studio Theatre, HK Cultural Centre

Hong Kong Ballet sent sparks flying with its new production, Firecracker. Yuri Ng has revisited the piece he originally created for City Contemporary Dance Company in 1997 to Tchaikovsky's score for The Nutcracker with Lunar New Year standing in for Christmas. The result is a witty, inventive take on the classic combined with a nostalgic tribute to Hong Kong in the 1960s.

The work revolves around the memories of an old man (touchingly portrayed by Carlo Pacis) who made firecrackers before they were banned in Hong Kong by the British. He recalls Lunar New Year celebrations with family and friends, the rapid social change of the 1960s and his first love.

Ingenious references to the plot and choreography of the original ballet abound. The Snowflakes become white-clad nurses in a hospital and the army of rats are brutal policemen in the 1967 riots. The work is playful and often funny, but there is a dark side personified by a sinister figure in black, spectacularly danced by Chen Qing.

The second half divertissements are transformed into an homage to 1960s Hong Kong films, showing Ng's ability to think outside the box. Highlights include a parody of the Arabian Dance from the Ballet's production of The Nutcracker, featuring the scrumptious Liu Miao-miao as a flirtatious starlet in a bathtub and a brilliant treatment of the grand pas de deux as a cheesy boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl film.

Ng teamed up with Yuh Egami, a talented young choreographer, for this production and the resulting choreography is lively, expressive and organic. The style is mostly modern but there is one blissfully classical pas de deux at the end of Act 1, performed delightfully by Li Ming and Shen Jie. Yoki Lai's costumes bring the 60s vividly to life.