Hong Kong Ballet takes on Ravel's Bolero

Collaboration breathes new life into a classic of the repertoire

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 May, 2015, 10:53pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 May, 2015, 1:21pm

Alongside Petipa's Paquita and Ratmansky's Le Carnaval des Animaux, Hong Kong Ballet's mixed bill on May 29 features a new version of Ravel's Bolero by company members Yuh Egami and Ricky Hu.

This is the first time the two young choreographers have been commissioned to create a piece for music they didn't choose themselves. That made the process harder, says Hu. "Before we've always started with an image of what we wanted to do, then found the music to fit." Egami says that Bolero's fame and the many previous dance versions made it harder still - they needed to find a way to be different.

Their goal, says Egami, was to embody the music. "The beginning is soft and lyrical, the ending chaotic and emotional." After trying out many ideas, they've opted for a theme that mirrors the score's relentless progression - an exploration of the descent into madness, inspired by Charles Darwin's quote: "We stopped looking for monsters under our bed when we realised that they were inside us."

Designer Siu Wai-man was asked to produce a set which could keep developing and building along with the music. The moveable structures she came up with create spaces and barriers and are subtle allusions to the Asian tradition of using partitions to transform rooms. Incorporating masks and fans, designed by Bridget Steis, the piece is technically complex and highly ambitious.

This is Egami and Hu's fourth collaboration. Despite their different backgrounds (Hu is from China and trained in Chinese and contemporary dance, while Egami is Japanese and studied at the Royal Ballet School) they find working together easy. "We see things the same way," says Hu.

They complement each other well - Egami says that Hu has a wealth of ideas about movement. Egami, says Hu, is the calm one who keeps things focused.

Both feel they've built a degree of trust and respect which enables them to be honest with each other without egos being bruised.

Does being on the same bill with Petipa and Ratmansky create extra pressure? Not really, says Hu. "We're still very young choreographers, we just want to challenge ourselves, to find how we can do things better."