BWW Review: HONG KONG BALLET Dynamic Dancing from the Far East
Photo Credits: A Room of Her Own - Image by Conrad Dy-Liacco ---- Castrati (Solo Dancer Image) by Wai Lok ---- Castrati (Three Male Dancers Image) by Conrad Dy-Liacco
On the evening of March 17, 2016, St. Patrick's Day, I attended Hong Kong Ballet's Program A at The Joyce Theater. I had never seen this company perform. Even though the restaurants and bars throughout the city were full, unbeknownst to me tonight's performance was to be a more exciting celebration.
Pas De Trois from A Room of Her Own
This piece had a foreboding element when it began in silence for the first few minutes. The Pas De Trois was performed by Yao Jin, Ruixue Dong, and Lucas Jerkander. The ladies were costumed in long-sleeved dresses in which the skirt's gossamer fabric floated with their movements. One dancer expressed an inkling of herself as a ghost in the room, by her guidance to conduct the male and female to perform. Throughout this piece, the technique of both women was a superb blend of classical ballet and modernistic steps. Their sinewy arms rippled as Mr. Jerkander would cast each one around in passion. Music by Edward Elgar, a live recording of Cello Concerto in E minor from Jacqueline Du Pré and the London Symphony Orchestra, reverberated the strings within the corners of the theater. The type of music chosen was an added effect of the dancers' conflicting balletic movements of anger and love. The three performers had a wonderful chemistry to begin the evening.
The famous Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato knows a male dancer's capabilities to an ultimate degree. I say this because I was truly blown away by the strength, bravura, exuberance, freedom, and the dynamic abilities of these nine male dancers. Open-chested bodice capes in solid black with thick black arm-bands gave these men a coat-of-armor to project the new life that was given them as Castrati. From exciting male-on-male lifts to contorted floor movements, the Castrati vocals of Karl Jenkins and music of Vivaldi had me on a ballet high. Each grand jeté, pirouette, and constant group-moving patterns would be a challenge for any seasoned male dancer. The ballet literally never stopped nor slowed down. The "Initiate" struggled with the desire to join the Castrati, with all its privileges, yet knowing this lifestyle would be irreversible. When the "Initiate" showed us the red palms of his hands, it revealed his choice. As a person who had seen Remanso, choreographed also by Duato and danced by Vladimir Malakhov, Parrish Maynard, and Keith Roberts at American Ballet Theatre's (ABT) gala performance at City Center in 1997, I can attest that the men of the Hong Kong Ballet are as talented and disciplined in their performance as the greats from ABT long ago. A new era of male talent showed through from these youthful and wonderfully trained dancers.
In Light and Shadow
The evening concluded with a full stage of eighteen dancers. A fun and Balanchine-like styled ballet when the cast succinctly and domino-effect stepped in time, while having various pas de deux flitting within this piece. There was a particular dancer who caught my eye when he was featured. Jun Xia's gorgeous arched feet and 180-degree extension were reminiscent of the famous Vladimir Malakhov. However, what distinguished Mr. Xia from the rest of the cast was how he showed his passion as a dancer. Technique and other aspects are the starting point for any dancer, yet to take it to the next level of professionalism, it is by one's emoting and projecting the love of the art form that cannot be taught. I believe I will continue to hear of his accomplishments, and that he will obtain the admiration of many balletomanes.
I honestly haven't seen an entire company dance with such skill and heart in a long time. Artistic Director Madeleine Onne; Senior Ballet Master Jing Liang; Ballet Mistress Min Tang; and all those who have coached these dancers need to know that their efforts have come to fruition. Please continue to keep classical and neo-classical at this level of excellence.