Hong Kong Ballet’s exciting premieres

June 14, 2019 16:58
Fu Yiyang and Li Jiabao in Justin Peck’s Year of the Rabbit. Photo: Conrad Dy-Liacco/Hong Kong Ballet

In early June, Hong Kong Ballet closed its 2018/19 season triumphantly with a mixed program showing off the strength and rich diversity of the company's repertory. All the three works were premieres, with live accompaniment by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Tim Murray.

Two of the premieres were acclaimed ballets by two of the most prominent choreographers in the world today – Wayne McGregor, the resident choreographer of The Royal Ballet in London; and Justin Peck, the resident choreographer of the New York City Ballet.

The final work, The Rite of Spring, is a new creation by two of the company’s dancers – Yuh Egami and Ricky Hu. In their version, Egami and Hu have come up with an original and interesting concept – the men represent human beings and the women symbolize Mother Earth. The theme is about mankind’s wanton destruction of the planet Earth, and carries the warning that their actions and inactions will eventually lead to their own destruction.

In the first half, the men are attired in black, each carrying a red rose in their mouth. They later throw the roses onto the ground. A woman, representing the victim, takes a red rose in her mouth. Ayano Haneishi performed the part well in the Saturday matinee.

In the second half of the ballet, the players switch roles. The women become the predators. Each of them wears a black veil, and they all throw their veils at their male victims. The women then target the men who all die in the end. Among the male dancers, Luis Cabrera was impressive.

This new work is certainly theatrical, and the choreography is effective in conveying the narrative.

Year of the Rabbit, Justin Peck’s 2012 ballet for the New York City Ballet, has a fresh contemporary feel and originality. The ensemble choreography is inventive with occasional touches of humor, such as a short passage in which the dancers gesture to ask everybody to keep quiet. The finale for the whole cast is vibrant and energetic. However, the ending is abrupt and inconclusive.

There is also an abundance of duets for the three lead couples. Li Jiabo partnered Fu Yiyang in two duets. Particularly good was their second duet which was warmer in tone. Garry Corpuz also partnered Ayano Haneishi in two duets, the second of which was darker.

Wayne McGregor’s Chroma was originally created in 2006 for the Royal Ballet. This exciting work actually made the strongest impact in the whole program. It is encouraging to see how well Hong Kong Ballet has mastered the difficult choreography. The twists and distortions in the choreography are striking.

The dancers project supercharged energy throughout the work. Among the ten dancers in the cast, Shen Jie, Xia Jun, and Yang Ruiqi stood out and made the best impressions.

All three works, which were strongly danced by the whole company, should be revived in the near future.

Hong Kong Ballet’s programs for next season, which will commence in August, certainly look very attractive.

In particular, Balanchine’s masterpiece, Jewels, should be a most rewarding challenge for the dancers.

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Yang Ruiqi and Xia Jun in Wayne McGregor's Chroma. Photo: Conrad Dy-Liacco/Hong Kong Ballet
Dancers in Egami and Hu’s new version of The Rite of Spring. Photo: Conrad Dy-Liacco/Hong Kong Ballet

veteran dance critic