Le Corsaire National Ballet of China HK Cultural Centre Grand Theatre Reviewed: June 29 Le Corsaire is one of the great three-act ballets choreographed by Marius Petipa in Saint Petersburg in the 19th century, but apart from its renowned pas de deux, a staple of galas and ballet competitions, the work was little known outside Russia until Oleg Vinogradov staged a sumptuous new version with the Kirov Ballet in 1987. Le Corsaire (the pirate) has since entered the repertoire of many companies. The plot is a cheerful farrago of nonsense loosely based on an epic poem by Byron. Set in an Arabian Nights Middle East, it involves a noble, a dashing pirate, a foolish, fat pasha, a wily slave dealer and a legion of gorgeous girls. Vinogradov's genius was to combine lavish production values and superb classical dancing with comedy, acknowledging the absurdity of the story. The blend of spectacle and comedy is hard to pull off, and this production fell woefully short. The costumes and sets looked tacky, the crowd scenes were underpopulated and much acting was rudimentary, with little feeling for the comedy. Even the pasha was too thin. Le Corsaire's real glory lies in its dancing, particularly that of its women, and the evening was redeemed by good performances from the two leads. As the heroine Medora, Meng Ningning danced and acted well, and shone in the lyrical passages, showing outstanding port de bras and exceptional balances. Cao Shuci, only 18 years old and still in the corps de ballet, was in the demanding role of Gulnara. Fast, light and fluid, Cao is a talent to watch. In the title role, Hao Bin was a manly hero, Wu Yan produced some brilliant jumps and spins, and there was some strong character dancing from Lu Na and Wang Yitong.