Hong Kong Ballet reinvents classic fairy tale Pinocchio

Swedish choreographer Pär Isberg make full use of props, costume, music and set designs to help bring the children's story to life

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2015, 11:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2015, 11:19pm

If Pinocchio is about a wooden puppet gaining a soul to become a human boy, then Hong Kong Ballet's stage adaptation of this fairy tale is about touching the soul of its audience, says its creator.

Opening the troupe's season is a production that promises to move and engage audiences through the power of dance, music and imagination.

"The first time I went to see a dance performance, I did not understand a thing, but it was such a fantastic feeling that I went back to watch it again," recalls Swedish choreographer Pär Isberg. "This is why we try to touch people's hearts."

Pinocchio is an apt choice, given it is a heart-warming and popular tale known to many. But with that comes expectations and the challenges of building a narrative just through movement.

"There are certain things in the text that you cannot express through dancing," says Isberg, 59.

So it's important to make use of props, costume, music and set designs to help bring the story to life. "I've wanted to do scenography since I was 13," he adds.

The original piece will feature a score by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi, who was no stranger to writing for ballet. Not only has Isberg come up with a distinctive choreography for each main role, he also chose "the right music that will fit the character" to help with the narrative.

Isberg, whose past works include his version of The Nutcracker 20 years ago, is known for giving classics a contemporary spin.

In Pinocchio, he sets the story in early 19th century (costumes match the period) while giving the story a modern twist by introducing a few gender reversals.

"To see things today on stage is not very interesting," Isberg says. "You want the audience to enter a different world from the one they are living in."

But the core of storytelling still lies with the choreography. And with only two months to work on his latest production, the pressure is on Isberg and the dancers. The daily routine for them is repetitive: practise, eat and sleep. "It is like an artistic dance factory, but with happy people," says Isberg.

Having worked in different countries, including Denmark and China, the choreographer is impressed with the abilities of Hong Kong dancers.

"What I notice here is how quickly dancers pick up the choreography," he says.

Cultural Centre Grand Theatre, 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, August 28, September 4, 7.30pm; August 29, September 5, 2.30pm, 7.30pm; August 30, September 6, 1.30pm, 6.30pm. HK$70-HK$680, Urbtix. Inquiries: 2105 9724