Thrilling guided tour through ballet basics

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 August, 2011, 12:00am


Know Your Ballet Music
Hong Kong Sinfonietta
August 27
City Hall Concert Hall

To combine arts, education, storytelling and entertainment in one concert is no easy thing. The Hong Kong Sinfonietta did just that, and more.

Joining hands with celebrated choreographer Yuri Ng and three ballet soloists, the mid-size orchestra led by music director Yip Wing-sie shared some of the basics of classical ballet with a full-house audience. The excellent choice of masterpieces aside, the bilingual script provided the link that wove the programme into an organic whole. Ng's charm in illustrating in words and moves was captivating, as was Yip's baton in unleashing the power of the ballet classics.

After a scene from the second act of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, Yip and Ng discussed the history, styles and story structure of classical ballet. On composers' fondness for using woodwind instruments for themes about birds, Igor Stravinsky's Dance of the Firebird was called in, followed by another Tchaikovsky masterpiece, The Sleeping Beauty. Li Ming and Yo Takahira, both from Hong Kong Ballet, performed the famous Bluebird Pas de Deux to great effect.

Without the pit, the distance between dancers and audience could not have been closer. The effect was particularly pronounced in the Doll's Waltz from Coppelia by Leo Delibes, the only non-Russian composer on the programme. Justyne Li, playing the doll, captivated the audience with larger-than-life mechanical moves.

But the biggest thrill came at the end, starting with the ballet shoes themselves, which Ng took off from Justyne Li and explained in detail their origin. . Then he asked the players and the audience to try a shoe on. Without volunteers, he left the stage, setting up an excerpt from the Cinderella ballet by Sergei Prokofiev.

The pas de deux of the prince and Cinderella ensued, until the midnight clock struck. The dramatic tick-tocking effect compounded with the panicking lady dashing, not to backstage, but through the aisles to the rear, followed by the prince. While all attention went with the dash, Li the Cinderella in rags appeared on stage, still one shoe missing, dancing to end the concert, with the audience still holding their breath.