THE HONG KONG BALLET
July 22, 2012
The Hong Kong Ballet made its Jacob's Pillow debut with a program of contemporary ballets. Directed by Madeline Onne, former principal dancer and artistic director of The Royal Swedish Ballet, it is clear the company celebrates Chinese culture and contemporary experminets.
"Black on Black," choreographed and costumed by Kinsun Chan, is the most abstract piece on the program. Stunning black and nude costumes and flying silk fabric lend an architectural component to the dance, showing off chiseled, muscular legs and sinuous arms. Although the choreography is gymnastic and unemotional, it is enhanced by moody lighting by Goh Boon Ann, creating a variety of shapes for the dancers to inhabit. When the back curtain opens to reveal a man with black silk "wings," his figure is illuminated against the wood barn wall of the theater. The well known music of Henryk Górecki (String Quartet No. 2, Op, 64, Quasi Una Fantasia') adds a menacing quality on top of its pulsing, steady beat.
"Luminous" by Peter Quanz is danced to "Affairs of the Heart" by composer Marjan Mozetich. This series of duets explores the tenuous nature of relationships. Effortless pirouettes and windmilling arms contrast with athletic leaps and striking unison throughout. A particularly heartbreaking moment comes when a woman and man dance a simple yet passionate pas de deux, only to be interrupted by "the other woman". A pair of hands touch, a woman seems to "play" her man as if he is a cello, and a man tries to extricate himself from a woman's grasp. All of these bits combine to make this a truly heartfelt ballet.
"Symphony in Three Movements", by Nils Christie closes the program, allowing 26 dancers to fill the stage with percussive energy. Choreographed to Igor Stravinsky's powerful score, the dancers run, crawl, stamp and swirl. The men exhibit their athletic prowess in one-handed planks, and there are some wonderful arms crossed with elbows thrust upwards. The clarity and intent of Mr. Christie's work suffered from a lack of unison and commitment to the choreography. However, a gorgeous duet with two women is performed perfectly together, sharp and clear. An opening duet, (curiously danced to Stravinsky's "Duo Concertante") was also exquisite, allowing Yao Jin and Wei Wei to display fluid partnering and facile pointe work. This is a company of talented dancers, ready for more challenges.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deborah Wingert