ARTS REVIEW

A Celebration of Dance

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 October, 2014, 5:37pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 October, 2014, 1:12pm

A Celebration of Dance

Hong Kong Ballet

HK Cultural Centre Grand Theatre

Reviewed: October 25, 2.30 and 7.30pm

The programme Hong Kong Ballet has chosen to celebrate its 35th anniversary reflects where the company stands today - dancing of an admirably high standard with a repertoire that is rich and varied, yet prone to odd lapses of judgment.

George Balanchine's 1934 masterpiece Serenade, with its limpid beauty and innate sense of mystery, is one of his subtlest ballets. While the matinee cast did well technically it was only in the final, sombre section that they captured the emotion the piece requires, led by heartfelt dancing from Liu Yuyao. The evening performance was more polished and more musical, and all the principals caught the feeling of the ballet well, with fine performances by Nina Matiashvili, Dong Ruixue and Frank van Tongeren.

This improvement from one show to the next illustrates how crucial it is for the ballet to perform more often so the dancers can develop. The point was proved by two brilliant performances of Nacho Duato's all-male Castrati, which the dancers have done enough times to claim as their own. Shen Jie repeated his riveting interpretation of the lead role, and Ricky Hu and Xia Jun were also outstanding.

A 19th century classic made a fitting conclusion, though Act III of Swan Lake was an odd choice, coming confusingly in mid-story. Even odder was the decision to import the Royal Swedish Ballet production. This version, by Natalie Conus, typifies the worst of Soviet era Russian ballet, complete with a Jester whose antics provide an excuse for the virtuoso steps bereft of artistic merit.

The national dances are under-choreographed, and the ravishing Neapolitan Dance is handicapped by adding child performers.

As for the Black Swan pas de deux, guest artists from the Bolshoi Ballet were off-form at the matinee. Kristina Kretova had superb technique but lacked stage presence; the normally excellent Artem Ovcharenko looked ill at ease on such a small stage. In the evening the home team shone. Zhang Siyuan was both glamorous and technically brilliant; Li Jiabo brought new assurance to his variations as well as his partnering.