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Hong Kong Arts Festival 2017

Mixed bill of ballet at Hong Kong Arts Festival something of a squandered opportunity

Second programme from Bayerisches Staatsballett featured Balanchine and the reimagining of a legendary work from 1922, but unfortunately seemed beyond the abilities of the junior company

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 12:58pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 12:58pm

The second programme from the Bayerisches Staatsballett, a mixed bill of four ballets, for this year’s Hong Kong Arts Festival felt oddly like watching a school performance – no surprise, as it was performed by the troupe’s junior company, Staatsballet II.

While the standard of dancing was acceptable for young trainees, it was disappointing in the context of the Arts Festival, given that there are so few opportunities to see top overseas ballet companies in Hong Kong.

The programme opened with Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante. Balanchine demands perfection and this performance fell far short of the style, speed and sparkle this jewel of a ballet calls for – neither allegro nor brillante, in fact. However, the lead ballerina (Bianca Teixeira, I believe – no casting was given) danced with vivacity and attack.

Best of the first half was Nacho Duato’s Jardí Tancat. One of the Spanish choreographer’s most popular pieces, set to the haunting voice of Calalan singer-composer Maria del Mar Bonet, it was danced with passion and commitment by the cast of six.

Richard Siegal’s Three Preludes was well-crafted and enjoyable, although neither the choreography nor the young dancers had the sophistication to match the wit and charm of Gershwin’s music.

The main item of interest on the programme was The Triadic Ballet. Nothing to do with dodgy tattooed individuals in the backstreets of Mong Kok, this is a reconstruction (reimagining might be more accurate) of a legendary experimental work from 1922. Originally created by Oskar Schlemmer, an avant-garde artist and choreographer who was part of the Bauhaus movement, it challenges normal perceptions of dance by putting the performers in massive, elaborate costumes that transform the human body into pieces of geometry.

The original work was not preserved and the Staatsballett's version was created by Gerhard Bohner in 1977 with new choreography and a new score by Hans-Joachim Hespos, although the costumes remain based on Schlemmer’s designs.

The costumes are certainly extraordinary and create some mesmeric effects. In their grotesque get-up the performers look like characters from cartoons or CGI creations – unfortunately, unlike cartoons, their movements are severely restricted by the cumbersome creations they are wearing. A combination of limited movement, slow pace and dreary music mean interest soon flags and at around one hour the piece is too long.

Much kudos to the dancers for performing this far from easy piece with enthusiasm and coping so well with the challenge of the costumes.

Mixed Bill, Bayerisches Staatsballett II, Lyric Theatre, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Reviewed: February 21