So as the New Year approaches, it’s a good time to look back on the dance programmes in Hong Kong in the past year. It’s been an uneven year for the Hong Kong Ballet. The highlight was the Galaxy gala in May with some outstanding stars from overseas. The company’s guest principal from San Francisco Ballet, Yuan Yuan Tan and her partner Anthony Spaulding were expressive in Edwaard Liang’s “Somewhere in Time” and in Yuri Possokhov’s “Diving into the Lilacs”. Among the other guests were the couple from California, Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk, who were compelling in their raw physical and emotional power. Also praiseworthy was the celebrated partnership from the English National Ballet, Daria Klimentova and Vadim Muntagirov, in the balcony duet from Nureyev’s “Romeo and Juliet”.
The revival of Balanchine’s “Allegro Brillante” was also outstanding with Jin Yao and Huang Zhen in the lead roles again. Balanchine’s “Rubies” was also excellently danced by Wu Yan and Liu Yu-Yao in March in the Stravinsky programme, though the other two ballets were mediocre. Glad also to see again Peter Quanz’s excellent “Luminous” in the November mixed programme. Quanz’s work created last year is by far the finest new work commissioned by the Hong Kong Ballet in the past two decades. However Fei Bo’s premiere “A Room of Her Own” in the same programme was unexpectedly disappointing. Fei Bo is the resident choreographer of the National Ballet of China, and his work “The Peony Pavilion” was shown in the Edinburgh Festival this summer.
In October, this Beijing troupe’s three performances of different programmes at the Asian Culture Festival showed again its superiority relative to our local troupe in terms of talent and repertory. Wang Qimin and Li Jun, their golden couple, illuminated “Swan Lake” in a much finer production (by Natalia Makarova) than Hong Kong Ballet’s version. The opening gala showed excerpts from its large and diversified repertory. In July, the ballet world mourned the death of the French choreographer Roland Petit. Petit’s “Carmen” pas de deux was fittingly included in the National Ballet of China’s gala. It’s a pity that this company can’t tour Hong Kong more often.
The year 2011 actually started off promisingly with the tour by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Sadly this troupe will disband on New Year’s Eve in accordance with the will of the great choreographer who passed away two years ago. Hong Kong was lucky to be included in the troupe’s farewell worldwide tour. The work shown in Hong Kong, “Nearly 90”, however is not among Cunningham’s greatest. Another renowned modern dance choreographer who died in 2009 was Pina Bausch. And it’s timely of the Hong Kong Arts Festival to present her company in March. In November, Akram Khan’s new solo show “Desh” was outstanding. The most original and absorbing modern dance programme this year was Lloyd Newson’s new work “Can We Talk about This?” performed by the DV8 Physical Theatre in September.
Nearby in Macau, the audiences saw the Stuttgart Ballet in March. They presented Cranko’s “Taming of the Shrew” showing off the troupe’s excellence. Hope that this German troupe can visit Hong Kong again before too long.
I have saved the greatest dance event till the last – the seven sold-out performances of two rewarding programmes of the New York City Ballet in Hong Kong in March. This was actually the first ever tour to China of this greatest American company. Praise to the Hong Kong Arts Festival for arranging this historic tour. Since the Mariinsky Ballet’s appearance in the 2010 festival, Hong Kong audiences have seen no finer ballet performances than the New York City Ballet dancing the four Balanchine masterpieces selected for this tour, especially “Divertimento No. 15”. And Jerome Robbins’ “Dances at a Gathering” was also magnificently danced.