Date: October 25, 2019
Company: Hong Kong Ballet
Choreography: John Meehan, after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Location: Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong.
Siegfried: Chan Chun Wai
Queen: Wang Qingxin
Act 1 pas de quatre: Gao Ge, Kim Eunsil, Li Lin, Shen Jie
Von Rothbart: Garry Corpuz
Odette/Odile: Ye Feifei
Big Swans: Jessica Burrows, Gao Ge, Wang Qingxin, Zhang Xuening
Little Swans: Kim Eunsil, Peggy Lai, Amber Lewis, Yang Ruiqi
Russian Princess: Vanessa Lai
Neapolitan Princess: Kim Eunsil
Escort of Neapolitan Princess: Shen Jie
Hungarian Princess: Jessica Burrows
Spanish Princess: Zhang Xuening
Hong Kong Sinfonietta
Faycal Karoui, conductor
Hong Kong Ballet’s 19/20 season continues with ballet’s ultimate romantic classic, Swan Lake, in a choreography by John Meehan. Chan Chun Wai, a Guangdong-born principal at The Houston Ballet, guest starred as the Prince, while Ye Feifei, Hong Kong Ballet’s principal, starred as Odette/Odile. Chan’s incredible lower body strength, primed for gorgeous fouettés, enabled the gyroscopic madness that he unleashed towards the end of Act 3. Technically, Chan is a master of his trade: his jetés were springy and swift, with airborne time maximized at the split and landing as soft as feather touching the ground. His acting, which by no means is faulty or inadequate, could benefit a great deal more by shaping his arms (and fingers!) with more artistic acumen. Ye Feifei was more expressively convincing as Odile than as Odette – her black swan was fiery, almost cunning, while her white swan seemed more ready to feign than to ooze pain and suffering. Technically, Ye Feifei was masterful, with full control of the repertory steps, and was mindful of her lines in front of the audience. Disaster loomed when her Act 3 pirouettes started slowly – and certainly not helped by the doubles that she planned to do and did anyway – but she willed her way to the rest of them, accelerating with great core strength and, perhaps more critically, even greater mental determination. Her feat was wildly applauded, and deservedly so.
Shen Jie began the evening horrendously in the Act 1 pas de quatre – a set piece not particularly difficult for either of the men, but one that, if Meehan’s concoction was to be visibly pleasing, required synchronization of the both of them, especially when both were doing tours. Shen Jie landed nearly all of his tours late, with *horrors* slanting shoulders, and he seemed visibly dazed at the end of the pas de quatre sequence. His performance as the escort of Kim Eunsil’s Neapolitan Princess in Act 3 was much more artistically pleasing, flanked and assisted by Kim’s flowing body lines and picture-perfect turns – so much so that the stage chemistry between the escort and princess overshadowed, and perhaps even violated, the story line of a princess attempting to woo a disinterested prince, not a princess smitten all over her escort. Amidst all that obfuscation of the story line, and a choreography that felt rather deflated and uninspired when juxtaposed against the combustible trumpets in the pit, Kim stood out as a dancer equipped with both technical prowess and artistic sensibility, and ready for greater roles to come.
The little swans quartet of Kim Eunsil, Peggy Lai, Amber Lewis, Yang Ruiqi was probably the luxury casting – and highlight – of the evening, with each of them absolutely focused, and all of them moving as one body. Synchronized neck bends, balancés in simple harmony – no minute details were left unattended. Vanessa Lai, as Russian princess, gave a fine performance that was, alas, obscured by her escorts who were busy turning and jumping themselves all around her. The number as a whole felt under-rehearsed, with the male escorts lacking both full awareness of their spatial relationships with each other and commitment in their steps. Jessica Burrows, returning to the Company in a prominent role after a short sabbatical, was a fine, passionate Hungarian princess. Zhang Xuening, as Spanish princess, hinted ever so slightly, with her crowd-pleasing performance, that she was mature enough as a dancer to carry the Company as Kitri.
The Hong Kong Sinfonietta gave a mixed performance. The violin solos were fantastic, as was the trumpet’s crisp double-tonguing lunacy in the Neapolitan dance. But overall, the pit felt sleepy for much of Act 1, and when rhythms and energy finally picked up thereafter, the orchestra sounded under-motivated.