In a mixed year for arts, one of the key events was the final emergence of the West Kowloon Cultural District project on the horizon. The government announced it was setting aside HK$19 billion for the development of 15 arts and cultural venues on the 40-hectare site while pledging to inject more funds into enhancing 'software' such as nurturing artistic talents, plus education and audience building. This is heartening news for the local performing arts scene, which had a good and bad year, with most classical concerts and dance shows falling into the former category and homegrown theatre drama productions into the latter. For classical music, it was a year in which ever younger concert-goers were taken to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre by well-intentioned parents; mobile phones fell largely silent during performances, but text-messaging remained alive and well; and the game of spot-the-programme on posters became an unfair challenge as details of works to be performed shrank to microscopic font sizes - unless it was an announcement for a concert by Lang Lang, in which case you wouldn't even find a programme. Yip Wing-sie and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta came up trumps again with sell-out shows such as Suzie Templeton's Peter and the Wolf - The Film (with live orchestra) and the HKS McDull Music Project 2. The Hong Kong Arts Festival banished piano recitals but fancied putting Brahms' three string quartets alongside works by Webern on the same programme. If there's ever a marathon for musicians, our bet goes on the Artemis Quartet. The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra's development continued to flourish under Edo de Waart's leadership, with operatic and symphonic blockbusters taking the ensemble forward in strides - and one or two of the guest conductors effecting a quick tiptoe backwards. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) treated us to the London Symphony Orchestra, providing an opportunity to hear a fine Mahler Symphony No 5, and to witness the peerless Maurice Murphy playing the opening trumpet call for the last time before retiring a few weeks later, aged 72. The Alban Berg Quartet gave an intense performance of Beethoven's String Quartet Op 130/133, particularly transfixing when a man in the front row dropped his programme and was skewered by a piercing stare from the viola player. Premiere Performances of Hong Kong was the new kid on the block, offering a series of recitals by rising piano stars. Traditional teachers might have given Ingrid Fliter a slap on the wrist for the occasional eccentricity in her left-hand posture, but the Argentine's playing of Haydn and early Beethoven was to die for. There were also strong dance performances this year. On the home front, it was a good year for the more American-style Hong Kong Ballet emerging under the direction of John Meehan. Highlights were Ronald Hynd's delightful three-act The Merry Widow and the Momentum programme, which revealed a new degree of classical precision and bravura in Petipa's Paquita and showcased the excellence of the male dancers in Stanton Welch's Clear. The company's Eve Chan, Carlo Pacis and Selina Chau continued to progress as choreographers. The City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC) never ceases to impress with the versatility and skill of its dancers and its commitment to creating new work. Willy Tsao Sing-yuen was on top form with the powerful Warrior Lanling. Helen Lai Hoi-ling's warm and witty exploration of the lighter side of love, It's So Easy to Fall in Love, which was part of the Awakening production in June, was a gem. On a less happy note, the Hong Kong Dance Company remained without an artistic director and two of its five productions were re-runs. Of the new works, Qingming Riverside had some good scenes and showed off the company's fine dancing, but Angel Falls was an ill-advised foray into musicals. There was an outstanding collaboration between Yuri Ng Yue-lit and the Sinfonietta on Stravinsky's A Soldier's Tale and My Life as a Dancer, commissioned by the Hong Kong Arts Festival. The latter brought together 16 local choreographers for an enjoyable evening that demonstrated the enviable range and depth of talent this city can boast in this area. Of the visiting artists, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre brought audiences to their feet with its spectacular dancing and the 1960 masterpiece Revelations proved as joyous and uplifting as ever. The National Ballet of China performed the old propaganda warhorse Red Detachment of Women with passion, but its version of Le Corsaire looked second-rate apart from the principals. French star Sylvie Guillem showed she can still achieve her famous extensions and balances, but her Sacred Monsters with Akram Khan was no more than a vehicle for the two dancers. Awakening, the triple bill featuring the CCDC with the Guangdong and Beijing Modern Dance Companies, shed an interesting light on the comparative degrees of development and sophistication of dance in the three cities, with Beijing lagging behind. The closing performance of the LCSD's Mediterranean Arts Festival, Gala Flamenca Dance - Yesterday, Today and Always, was memorable, with Merche Esmeralda performing with younger dancers Belen Maya, Olga Pericet, Manuel Linan and Marco Flores. Together, they took this traditional dance genre to a new high, giving it a slick and contemporary makeover. The biggest disappointment was Leipzig Ballet's turgid The Great Mass, part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, redeemed by the glorious performance of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Leipzig Opera Choir. Opera Hong Kong presented solid productions of Gounod's Romeo et Juliette and Verdi's Aida. In Puccini's La Boheme, the Welsh National Opera gave an object lesson on ensemble acting and realism in opera. Finally, in the theatre world, all sorts of musicals were staged this year, from 3Arts Musical Institute's Othello - The Rock Show for the younger crowd, to the Hong Kong Singers' The Full Monty for the older audience and W Theatre's Once in a Lifetime for anyone in between. Theatre Space audaciously staged Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George in Cantonese: full marks for artistic director Dominic Cheung Ho-kin's determination to tackle this difficult piece but none for the production itself. The cast simply wasn't up to the demanding score. 2onstage had more success with Homo Superus, billed as the hottest gay musical in town. With flamboyant costumes and raunchy innuendos, directors Pichead Amornsomboon and Tony Wong Lung-bun didn't disappoint their fans. The production got off to a wobbly start in September, but its second run this month offered a tighter script and a huge improvement in the singing. The Singers' The Full Monty was an endearing community theatre production, spoiled somewhat by the fact the two male leads, David Oxley and Rob Archibald, were not strong singers. The best productions came from contemporary English-language drama. In Theatre du Pif's staging of David Harrower's powerful Blackbird Bonni Chan Lai-chun delivered a strong performance, which was only slightly marred by her self-conscious diction. Sometimes Y Theatre made its local debut with the political black comedy The Hum, written by its artistic director Robert Tsonos, which established a credible presence for him in Hong Kong.