Les Sylphides and More
Hong Kong Ballet
Cultural Centre Grand Theatre
Reviewed: May 23
Hong Kong Ballet's new mixed bill showcases the company's impressive range and technical strength with the premieres of two works more than a century apart in age and light years apart in style.
Created in St Petersburg in 1907 and revised to the version best-known today in 1909, Michel Fokine's Les Sylphides is considered the first abstract ballet, paving the way for 20th century choreographers such as George Balanchine. As its original title, Chopiniana, suggests, the piece is a pure expression through movement of music by Chopin.
The challenge of Fokine's exquisite choreography is not to the dancers' technique, although opportunities for virtuosity are there, but their ability to embody the music.
For this show, the difficulty was compounded by the accompaniment on solo piano of nine-year-old local prodigy Daniel Chan who, while immensely talented for his age, did not produce a sufficiently accurate performance in this context. All the more credit to the dancers for giving such a fine interpretation. Li Ming's speed and sparkling footwork, Wu Feifei's lyrical arms and Jin Yao's soaring jumps in the mazurka were all outstanding.
Equally focused on the music, yet in total contrast to Fokine's soft, romantic style is Shape of Glow, created for the company by Jorma Elo.
Set to music by Mozart and Beethoven, the piece features eight couples and consists of two fast, dynamic sections with a series of slower, more lyrical duets in the middle.
This is a strong addition to Hong Kong Ballet's repertoire and a triumph for its dancers.
It is an ensemble piece and the whole cast was superb, especially Dong Ruixue, Liu Miao-miao, Shen Jie and Li Jia-bo, while two corps de ballet members, Shunsuke Arimizu and June Xia, made a striking impression.
The programme was completed by three pas de deux featuring guest artists, including Adilijiang Abudureheman, who produced some thrilling jumps in Le Corsaire.