Man of La Mancha makes entrance on a white charger from Tuen Mun

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 March, 2010, 12:00am

You can say there's a bit of horsing around in the Mariinsky Ballet's presentation of Don Quixote. Its run of performances for the Hong Kong Arts Festival show began on Saturday night, and audiences at the Cultural Centre's Grand Theatre were happily surprised when, at a critical moment, the eponymous character arrived on stage on a live horse.

It isn't the first time the arts fest has had to find a four-legged prop to accompany a pas de deux.

'Ten years ago, for a production of Carmen, we had a horse on stage, too,' programme director Grace Lang recalls.

'For the Mariinsky Ballet, we had to help them search for a horse in Hong Kong, too. We tried three or four different options, including a horse the Jockey Club uses for carriages. Ultimately, we had to use one from the Tuen Mun Public Riding School. It's required to come on stage twice. It had to be white and, obviously, have a stable manner.'

Speaking of stable, they've made a temporary one in a corner backstage. But there was some initial hesitation about having a big, powerful animal on stage - and not just because the ballet dancers might have to pirouette around horse poop.

'Well, there is an orchestra pit of 60 people below the stage. At least, there's no loud music when it enters. It really is a majestic moment. Everyone watching was thrilled to see a horse on the stage.'

Don Quixote will be performed until Wednesday.