Young Hong Kong Ballet choreographers shine with fresh take on Bolero
The revelation of Hong Kong Ballet's latest mixed bill was a new production of Ravel's Bolero commissioned by artistic director Madeleine Onne from two young company choreographers, Yuh Egami and Ricky Hu.
Finding a fresh approach to a piece done so many times, from faux flamenco to Bejart's sexually charged dancer on a table, is tough. Egami and Hu came up with a startlingly original idea - the music's inexorable development charts the path to madness and suicide of a schizophrenic girl.
Confined in an asylum, those around her assume the form of demons who emerge from the walls to torment her. Only her lover retains his human form, but in the end, he can no longer reach her.
As taut, disciplined and intense as the music itself, the piece generates dramatic and emotional power without descending into melodrama and makes stunning use of the music - a particular word for the shattering way Ravel's abrupt climax is handled.
The production is a technical tour de force, from the constantly transforming set to the black fans with knives in their blades that open and close on the heads of the demons, a dark echo of the white fan on which the girl ultimately writes her suicide note. The risky, ambitious concept was executed superbly by Egami, Hu and the design team of Siu Wai-man (sets), Bridget Steis (costumes), Aya Mok (props) and Alice Kwong (lighting).
The cast maintained the impeccable precision called for by the technical aspects while performing with passion and commitment. Liu Yiuyao (below, centre) gave a searing portrayal of a girl losing touch with reality, and Lucas Jerkander was poignant as her lover.
Alexei Ratmansky's version of Saint-Saens' Le Carnaval des Animaux reflected the wit and charm of the music. If not one of Ratmansky's major works, it shows his inventiveness, musicality and humour. It was splendidly performed, with the dancers romping through the technical difficulties and bringing out the comedy.
The only classical piece, Marius Petipa's Paquita, was patchy, with the best work coming from the soloists, notably Yui Sugawara. Paris Opera stars Alice Renavand and Florian Magnenet gave a fine interpretation of an extract from Angelin Preljocaj's Le Parc. Tan Yuanyuan and Edwaard Liang performed the latter's Letting Go, which would have impressed more if it hadn't looked so much like the other Liang pas de deux Tan has performed here in previous years.
Paquita. Bolero. Carnival+, Hong Kong Ballet, Cultural Centre Grand Theatre. Reviewed: May 29