A ballet school's joyful celebration

September 12, 2018 16:34
Students perform a routine in 'Gayane -- The Dance with Tambourines'. Photo: Jean M. Wong School of Ballet

In mid-August, the Jean M. Wong School of Ballet, the largest and most prestigious ballet school in Hong Kong, had a cause for celebration. Jordan Chan Yeuk-hay, a 16-year-old Hong Kong student taught by Yui Man Cheung in the school, was awarded the bronze medal at the 2018 Genée International Ballet Competition, which was held in the city this year by Britain’s Royal Academy of Dance.

Over the weekend of August 18 and 19, I attended the annual “Stars of Tomorrow 2018” show presented by the school in the Sha Tin Town Hall. The total number of students on stage this year numbered about 700. Every year I am overwhelmingly impressed by the high quality and professionalism shown by the students of the school, as well as the students participating in the International Summer Dance School.

Last year, they were impressive in the classic “The Sleeping Beauty”. And this year they were equally ambitious to dance another difficult 19th century classic “La Bayadère” (The Temple Dancer), which formed the second half of this year’s show. Jordan Chan was cast in the male lead role of Solor -- a young warrior who is in love with Nikiya, but betrothed to Gamzatti.

But due to a clash in schedule, I only attended the first half of this show, which consisted of eight different numbers spanning a good variety of styles and moods. The show started with the awards presentation ceremony. As a bonus to the audience, prominent guest stars from overseas grace this show every year. Last year, there was a pair from the Hamburg Ballet. This year, the highlight was the “Don Quixote” pas de deux performed by the Universal Ballet's principal dancers Kang Mi-sun and Konstantin Novoselov, who were dazzling in their technical virtuosity.

Let’s turn to the students’ own performances. "Gayane – The Dance with Tambourines" was danced with high spirits by the whole cast. The staging by the Russian teacher Andrei Matinkine was fine. A good contrast was provided by a modern dance number “HAA" set to Max Richter’s music, and well performed by the Level 3 students of the International Summer Dance School.

Also enjoyable was a jolly number “Haste” set to La Gioconda by Ponchielli, and also choreographed by Matinkine for the Level 3 students. The junior Level 1 students in turn showed off their skills in "Vivaldi Giocoso" choreographed by Linda Gelinas.

Madam Jean Wong, who founded the school 58 years ago, is still tireless in managing the institution's affairs, as well as active in the local ballet circle. Undoubtedly she is the most iconic face associated with ballet here in Hong Kong. Long may Jean and her school flourish!

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