Ensemble

True Balletic Virtuosity

ADAM J SACKS reports from the first performance of HK Ballet's new season

 

The Hong Kong concert season continues apace. Though a COVID case was found in the woodwind section at the Philharmonic premiere not a single subsequent case among the orchestra turned up positive. Conductor Judith Yan herself venturing from Toronto had to surmount a strict fourteen day quarantine before taking up the baton. Such is the trend that the ballet season opener of Don Quixote transpired without enforced social distancing among the audience, extra tickets were released to the public just prior to the start.

A scene from Ludwig Minkus' 'Don Quixote' at Hong Kong Ballet. Photo © 2020 Conrad Dy-Liacco
A scene from Ludwig Minkus'
Don Quixote at Hong Kong Ballet.
Photo © 2020 Conrad Dy-Liacco

As artistic director Septime Webre proclaimed from the stage before the start, 'perseverance is emerging from the storm renewed and better'. One could say it was worth the ten month wait for a delightful performance filled to the brim with humor, acrobatics and girl power. Almost unique in the classical repertoire for featuring a damsel neither in distress nor in any form of detention, Kitri - Amber Lewis in the performance I saw - is the character in charge and longed for while famously, the butt of derision are the itinerant wanderers Sancho Panza and Don Quixote.

Amber Lewis as Kitri with Hong Kong Ballet dancers in Ludwig Minkus' 'Don Quixote'. Photo © 2020 Edward So
Amber Lewis as Kitri with Hong Kong Ballet dancers in Ludwig Minkus' Don Quixote. Photo © 2020 Edward So

The performance suceeded in fulfilling the naturalistic ambitions of the original choreography of Alexander Gorsky, but for some occasionally overwrought acting out of the nemesis role in Gamache. The seamless fusion of on-stage flamenco style dancing including playing of castenets along with the orchestra completed a full picture atmosphere while the knee diving and one hand lifts of Basillo (Jie Shen) provided true balletic virtuosity throughout.

Amber Lewis as Kitri (left) with Jie Shen as Basilio for Hong Kong Ballet in Ludwig Minkus' 'Don Quixote'. Photo © 2020 Conrad Dy-Liacco
Amber Lewis as Kitri (left) with Jie Shen as Basilio for Hong Kong Ballet in Ludwig Minkus' Don Quixote. Photo © 2020 Conrad Dy-Liacco

Worthy of consideration as a teachable moment perhaps is the action of Scene I , Act II where the Don invades a 'Gypsy camp', that hides Kitri and her lover Basillo, a bewildering and arguably clichéd representation of Europe's largest minority that possibly needs rethinking for the present day.

Copyright © 6 November 2020 Adam J Sacks,
Hong Kong, China

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