Dancers taking part in Swan Lake were hard at work putting the finishing touches to their performances when we caught up with them at rehearsals last week. Tonight they will perform in the Hong Kong Ballet's presentation of the classic at Sha Tin Town Hall.
Li Ming and Shen Jie are 20-something dancers who come from the mainland. They started dancing when they were 10 and 11, and met at the Guangzhou Ballet Company in 2005. They joined the Hong Kong Ballet company two years later. They have danced in other classics such as Cinderella, The Nutcracker, Turnadot and Giselle, but their favourite is Swan Lake.
Li says enthusiastically: 'I think the most impressive act is Act Three - the Black Swan.'
The prince dances with the black swan by mistake because she is so beautiful. 'It is a great selling point,' she says.
Shen adds: 'Every act is impressive, and Act Three is particularly good.'
In Swan Lake, Li plays the role of a young swan - called a cygnet, while Shen acts as a supporting character to the prince.
Li says it is not easy to portray a cygnet in Swan Lake. Every movement has to be like a swan. 'You should look like a swan even when you move your head.'
She adds that while Act Two is a chance for dancers to show off their professionalism, skills and standards, it is also exhausting and challenging.
'Every dancer has to put in a lot of work, especially on their foot positions, posture and skills,' Li explains. 'If one makes a small mistake, the whole dance will be ruined.'
Another challenge in Swan Lake is to perform in different national styles. In Act Three, some dancers act as swans from different countries and they have to present them with these characteristics.
'The swans in this act are showcasing a nation's features,' Shen says. 'Dancers have to present those features in such a way that the audience can tell the difference, and know where the swans are from.'
Li and Shen practise from 10am to 6pm every day, pursuing perfection in every detail of their art.
Sweat, pain, endurance and passion fill their hours backstage.
'It is not too tiring for men dancers,' says Shen, 'but women dancers have to dance very hard.'
'To dance the same steps over and over is sometimes boring, but we have to overcome the difficulties,' Li says.
What makes it all worthwhile is the applause at the end of the show. Swan Lake runs from tonight until Sunday. For details, go to www.hkballet.com .