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BWW Review: HONG KONG BALLET Brings Contemporary Ballets to the Joyce

On March 15, 2016, Hong Kong Ballet opened its debut at the Joyce Theater, NYC. I felt fortunate to be there, from the moment the curtain opened, to see Program A. On the program were three works by three choreographers, from three different countries: China, Spain, and Poland. Artistic Director, Madeleine Onne, one of Sweden's leading ballerinas, leads the Company's artistic team of more than forty dancers of nine different nationalities.

First on the program was Pas De Trois from A Room of Her Own by National Ballet of China's resident choreographer Fei Bo. This piece is quite a departure from Bo's The Peony Pavilion, a full-length ballet, rich with Chinese culture and colorful costumes and storyline, which I enjoyed when it was performed by The National Ballet of China at the Koch Theater last July. As the title states, this is a piece for three dancers,

two women and a man. The lighting, by lighting designer Boon Ann Goh, is dim and the costumes by Kun Li, simple. The story is based on Virginia Woolf's groundbreaking 1929 feminist essay, A Room of One's Own, which dramatizes the story of a woman's struggle to confront her jealousy over her husband's inappropriate friendship with another woman. The supple beauty of the dancers was exquisite as they emoted through this psychodrama, inspired by the haunting Cello Concerto in E minor, op 85, by Edward Elgar (live recording by Jacqueline Du Pre and London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir John Barbirolli). Yu-yao Liu was particularly striking with her remarkable extension and her dramatic ability. Liu, together with Miao-miao Liu as the pretty mistress, and Jia-bo Li as the strong husband, presented a mesmerizing short story ballet.

Castrati, by renowned Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato, was the most enthralling of the evening. Duato's choreography for nine men was strong, fluid, and riveting. Dancing to a score melding Antonio Vivaldi's romantic classicism with Welsh composer's contemporary sounds, with striking costumes designed by Francis Montesinos, the men successfully performed an unusual subject for a ballet. The musicality and passion of the choreography, including groups large and small as well as solos and duos, executed by the dancers with aplomb, kept us involved even when the subject of castrating the novice could be difficult. While I would like to name some standouts, all the dancers looked good. The audience went wild with applause and vocal appreciation. It surprised me that this is the only work on the program that is omitted from Program B.

Polish choreographer Krzysztof Pastor created In Light and Shadow to Johann Sebastian Bach's Aria from Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, Orchestral Suite No.3 in D, BWV 1068. This piece, inspired by Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings and Baroque dances, was certainly a lighter, easier subject. It was often formulaic in approach. For the first time that evening, I was aware of some dancers who lacked technique next to their proficient colleagues. This can happen when the choreography and intention does not carry them through. As a closing piece, I found it to be a let down, particularly after such powerful ballets preceding it.

This is a company worth seeing. I look forward to future performances. They will be at the Joyce Theater through March 20, 2016.

Photo credit: Conrad Dy-Liacco

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