Suzie Wong - The Ballet

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2006, 12:00am

Suzie Wong - The Ballet

Hong Kong Ballet

Sha Tin Town Hall Auditorium

Reviewed: March 18

Stephen Jefferies is going out on a high note. Suzie Wong, his last original work for Hong Kong Ballet as artistic director, is an atmospheric tribute to the 1960s. Demure girls in full-skirted cotton frocks by day become slinky cheongsam-clad temptresses by night, and the city's energy and dynamism radiates off the stage.

Based loosely on Richard Mason's novel, the ballet is a love story between bargirl Suzie and foreign artist Jack (boy meets girl, girl tries to give up her life as a prostitute but is dragged back into it, boy finally gets girl).

The ballet benefits immeasur-ably from Chris Babida's superb score, ranging from ferocious jive to a gorgeously lush love theme. Above all, it's always danceable. This is Babida's first ballet (his background is in film and television) - let's hope there'll be many more.

The ballet combines classical technique with ballroom dancing, and the dancers managed the transitions well - especially the women, switching between high heels and pointe work. Jive on pointe might seem a curious concept, but the sequence in Act 2 was a highpoint and deservedly brought down the house.

The work has weaknesses. Act 1 is thin, Act 2 too long, and Jack's character too peripheral (which is true to the book but weakens the story). The choreography is uninspired and repetitive, the strongest sequence being Suzie's assault by the police inspector.

Overall, this was an immensely entertaining evening, show- casing Jefferies' ability to create a detailed, three-dimensional world on stage, and use his dancers to best effect.

Faye Leung perfectly captured Suzie's mixture of sexuality and innocence, and was superbly partnered by guest artist Bengt Jorgen. The whole company was so good it seems unfair to pick out individuals, but standout performances included Crystal Costa as Suzie's friend, Jin Yao as her rival, and Izaak David Claase as the police inspector.