This weekend a group of LPC students went to Tsim Sha Tsui to see A Ballet Soirée in the Hong Kong Cultural Center next to the Victoria Harbor. The performance was not only one, but consisted of six small scenes of classical or modern ballet.
The first performance we watched was Castrati by the Spanish Choreographer Nacho Duato, played to music by Antonio Vivaldi and Karl Jenkins. Not only did I find the dancing itself brilliant; the music moved me very much as well, as I used to play the exact same piece with the orchestra of my previous school – and had loved it! Castrati was a wonderful and overwhelming first performance, that seemed to indeed not depict ballet, but simple beauty. Nine men, in long black cloaks which left their chests free and swirled around at every step, twirled around stage, jumping high into the air, twisting their bodies together and apart and seemingly floating on stage. Every move, every jump, every time one of the dancers lifted another, the men seemed to be weightless and light as feathers. Their movements seemed to be the easiest in the world, but even from far back in the audience I could see their clearly defined, strained muscles, contracting at every step and every movement. The program called the piece an exploration of “the meaning of masculinity and the significance of sacrifice in a world that demands perfection”. Masculinity, sacrifice, perfection – yes, those are indeed words that describe this performance very well. The context of the piece is well chosen and meaningful: Young male “castrato” singers of the 17th century, who were castrated in order to maintain their high-pitched voices, were often celebrated as the stars of their society – while their “sacrifice” was often forgotten or ignored. As the South China Morning Post judged, the dancers presented their piece with absolutely “extraordinary speed, power and intensity”, endlessly charming the spectators and definitely taking their breath. I personally think that Castrati was without doubt the highlight of the evening.
The other performances were not really comparable, neither in style, nor in quality. The second piece, Pas de Deux from the Lady of the Camellias, was simple. It consisted of only two dancers: a ballerina and her loving husband, who were dancing what seemed like a combination of waltz and ballet. Their dancing was straightforward, not very complex and rather pleasant, but nothing unique or special. There was one jump and one split after another, and with time I asked myself, if there was anything new to come. Frankly, I was glad that it ended after not too long. The third piece was a world première: Dancing With The Wind by choreographer Li Jun. The group of dancers was entirely female, wearing long, white and green trousers that whirled around their bodies. The music playing and the women’s movements themselves were distinctively Chinese, with a slight breeze of oriental spirit mixed in. The choreography had no particular plot but was a mere exploration of motion and its beauty.
A piece that I found particularly interesting was Le Grand Pas de Deux by the German choreographer Christian Spuck. World premiered in 1999 in Stuttgart, the piece was more of a caricature, combining steps of some of the most famous classical ballets of the world. It started rather surprisingly with the audience being alighted and the stage remaining black. After a few moments of confusion, a very pretty ballerina stumbled into the theatre, clasping herself to her red handbag. She heaved herself onto the stage where she was welcomed by a handsome male dancer, put on her huge black glasses – and started dancing. The two involved various comedy acts in their dance, tripping over each other, introducing modern ‘disco’ moves, arguing about the red hand bag etc. At first I was unsure how to react, as I had never seen anything like this before – but then I joined the rest of the audience, who just couldn’t stop laughing.
The last piece was very classical, but, apart from Castrati, it was also the most synchronized performance of the evening. All dancers were dressed in blue, the ballerinas all wearing glittering tutus, the men equally twinkling tights. Their choreography was a collection of variations on one theme, the dance having been composed by George Balanchine. The music was by no one else than Tchaikovsky and hence the performance was a celebration of classical Russian ballet. All in all a great piece! The ballet performance of that evening was generally very good. Even though the group dances were partially very unsynchronized and I find that the quality of the Ballet in my home city Dresden is of much higher quality, I was very impressed by the variety of performances gathered in the show. After all, it was my first ballet staging in Hong Kong and I must say it was definitely worth going!