Arts preview: Hong Kong Ballet brings a conceptual touch to Chinese classic

Mabel Sieh

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 10:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 October, 2013, 5:09pm

Hong Kong Ballet


Best known for its tear-jerking story, The Dream of the Red Chamber has been adapted for screen and stage many times. But choreographer Wang Xinpeng's ballet version of the popular Chinese literary classic promises to give the doomed romance a more conceptual take.

"It's a story about human fate and destiny," says the Dalian-born artistic director of Germany's Ballett Dortmund and ex-principal dancer of the Peking Central Dance Company.

Written by Cao Xueqin during the Qing dynasty, the 18th-century novel depicts the relationship between Jia Baoyu and his two cousins: Xue Baochai, a smart, graceful and well-loved woman to whom he is predestined to marry; and Lin Daiyu, his true love.

Wang's dance reinterpretation, The Dream of the Red Chamber, will be staged by the Hong Kong Ballet on October 25- 27 and November 1-3.

"Jia lived in an era of feudalism where his life and everything had to follow a set of traditions, rules and expectations. He could represent any person today," says Wang, who left the mainland for Germany in 1989 "to see the world".

"Through his tale and the characters involved, we once again ask the fundamental question: 'Where do we come from and where do we go from here?'" Wang says.

Also known as The Story of the Stone, The Dream of the Red Chamber makes reference to the ancient myth of a "stone spirit" who takes human form to learn about the meaning of life. Baoyu, being a stone spirit, is born with a piece of jade in his mouth.

"When he found that the love of his life had died, he felt empty. He realised everything eventually fell in the void of emptiness, so he left home to become a monk. He went back to nature - where he came from," says Wang, who worked with director Zhang Yimou on the ballet version of the film Raise the Red Lantern in 2000.

Wang says he wants to explore the meaning of life from a contemporary perspective: "History comes and goes; countries rise and fall. Men too. It's a cycle of life."


Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre, Tsim Sha Tsui, October 25-27 & November 1-3, HK$140-HK$1,500. Inquiries: 2734 9009.