Date: February 21 and 23, 2013
Company: American Ballet Theatre
Location: The Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong.
February 21: Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, Swan Lake Act III Pas de Deux, Pas de Deux from Stars and Stripes, Symphony #9
February 23: The Leaves Are Fading, The Moor’s Pavane, Symphony in C
ABT opened the Hong Kong Arts Festival with a pair of dance galas. The first evening began with Drink to Me With Thine Eyes, which features twelve dancers in thirteen snippets. Without music, Mark Morris’ choreography could look like a tacky gym video with funny leg movements and group pilates lunges. However, when coupled with Virgil Thomson’s piano music, played by Barbara Bilach, things started to get interesting: the musical textures seemed vividly re-imagined and radiated through rapid body movements. In Ragtime Bass, one of the snippets, lyrical passages in the tonic were represented by subtler, more ribbon-like motions, while a more rhythmically intense passage in the subdominant was realized via more overt, mechanical leg movements. Next were Paloma Herrera and Cory Stearns in Swan Lake’s black swan paired dance, where the two principals performed with a clinical precision but, albeit perhaps intentionally, lacked chemistry. In Stars and Stripes, Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin, a dynamic duo of gushing energy and endlessly beaming smiles, had plenty of fun and received the most thunderous applauses. Lane was rather tight and wobbly at the beginning, but as soon as she warmed up and her feet started carrying her, dancing with the joy of a child but the seriousness of a consummate professional. Ratmansky’s delectable choreography in his new Symphony #9 has no obvious narrative, but dazzles with pure athleticism, especially in the fourth movement, as Herman Cornejo turned and jumped with boundless energy, and in the second movement, where Polina Semionova and Marcelo Gomes nursed poetic sexual tensions via contemplative body lines and contact.
In the second evening, Hee Seo and Roberto Bolle led an admirable cast in The Leaves Are Fading, Antony Tudor’s poetic tribute to unrelenting youth. Bolle’s lines were statuesque and pensive, while Seo, notably graceful in feel and form, imprinted particularly with her exquisite lowerings from full pointe. Symphony in C, the evening’s anchor, was pure luxury, even in Barbara Karinska’s uninspiring black and white costumes. Stella Abrera and Eric Tamm were properly athletic and bouncy in the first movement, especially in the juicy petit allegro. Simone Messmer and Jared Matthews in the fourth movement were like two dancing architects, building up the stage into a gala of 48 dancers in robust and well-synchronized motions.
The Hong Kong Sinfonietta provided live accompaniment from the pit, with ABT’s Charles Barker and David LaMarche conducting the respective evenings. The Hong Kong group was mostly dutiful, but did show some weakness in the upper brass, particularly during Stars and Stripes. Redemption did follow, with a Symphony in C that raced to a spirited, feisty finish.