This year, Le French May Festival is celebrating its silver jubilee. The first dance program presented last weekend by this annual arts festival was a gala entitled Paris Ballet Legends: A Night With The Stars.
The lineup consists of 13 stars, including four from the Paris Opera Ballet, four from the Compania Nacional de Danza, Spain, four from our local Hong Kong Ballet, and only one from the Berlin Staatsoper. This two-part gala has a total of 11 numbers. The first half contains older choreography, while newer works are grouped in the second part.
The best performed item of the whole evening is the short 1970 ballet In The Night by Jerome Robbins. It is a thought-provoking masterly Robbins ballet consisting of three different pas de deux which perhaps represent different stages of a relationship.
The first couple seems to represent young lovers; their duet is heated and passionate. The second duet is more mature in feeling, and the couple is more refined and elegant. And finally, the third duet couple seems querulous and tense, as symbolized by the difficult lifts.
The finale is most moving when the three different couples are united in an emotional resolution.
This Robbins ballet is most rewarding for local audiences who rarely see works by this great 20th century American choreographer.
Paris Opera Ballet stars Agnes Letestu and Stephane Bullion were particularly outstanding in the second duet. Letestu and Bullion, however, were later wasted in the second half of this program – in a trivial comic duet entitled Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien choreographed by Ivan Favier. They danced on a green mat as if outdoors on a beach. They should have danced a more substantial duet instead.
Besides In the Night, the rest are either duets or solos of mixed quality. Another highlight is the closing item – the pas de deux from Angelin Preljocaj’s famous 1994 ballet Le Parc set to haunting music by Mozart. The choreography is full of abandon. The episode when the man is swinging the woman round when their lips are locked in kissing is breathtaking, no matter how many times one has watched it. Muriel Zusperreguy and Josua Hoffalt were most expressive and absorbing in this duet.
The famous Dying Swan solo unexpectedly is turned into a male solo choreographed by Ricardo Cue, intensely danced by Esteban Berlanga. The duet from Jose Martinez’s ballet Les Enfants du Paradis, however, is nothing more than a boring bedroom duet.
And the duet Carmen Toujours! choreographed by Frederic Fontan and Olivier Sarrat is totally incomprehensible. We first see an injured patient on a wheelchair dancing with a nurse in the hospital, and the nurse is later transformed into a “femme fatale”.
Hong Kong Ballet’s four dancers were shown off pretty well in this gala. Ryo Kato, the talented Japanese soloist who unfortunately is leaving after this season, was exciting in the Black Swan pas de deux. Jin Yao and Lucas Jerkander were melting in a duet from Val Caniparoli’s Lady Of The Camellias premiered by Hong Kong Ballet last autumn.
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