Saturday, March 13, 2010

REVIEW: Dutch National Ballet

It was like having an evening of exquisite appetizers, yet no main course was served.
It was a very difficult decision, whether I should turn in my tickets and change it for a Saturday night performance or don't and miss Ashkenazy X3 (Vladimir - piano, Vovka - piano, Dimitri - clarinet). At the end, I felt that I have been out already for the last 3 nights (3/9 - Adreas Scholl, 3/10 - HKPO, 3/11 - Simone Osborne) and I should just give myself a break on Saturday night.

The Friday, 12th of March, performance of the Dutch National Ballet as part of the 38th Hong Kong Arts festival at the Hong Kong Cultural Center Grand Theatre was a collection of modern ballet pieces by no other than Hans Van Manen. This is a big deal for me. Hans Van Manen is one of the most popular choreographer that seamlessly fused clasical ballet and modern dance.

The performance started with Adagio Hammerklavier. Danced to the music of Beethoven (Adagio from Piano Sonata no. 29 in B flat, Op 106, Hammeklavier), the 3 dance couples displayed the dynamics in different relationships. What really struck me when the curtain was raised was that the dancers were beautiful and the costumes were designed to showcase that... in short, the costumes were kept minimal and simple. The choreography was a blend of creative simplicity and structured sensitivity. The lifts in this piece were some of the most difficult that I have seen on stage not because of the complexity but because they need to be sustained with utmost fluidity to achieve this level of clarity.

Sarcasmen took on stage after the interval. With Prokofiev's Cinq Sarcasmes, Op 17, dancers Anna Tsygankova and Alexander Zhembrovsky communicated great passion that both exudes sensuality and aggression. Trois Gnossiennes, with the music of Satie, was one of my favorites. The choreography was simple, sublime and sophisticated; and dancers Larissa Lezhnina and Josef Varga displayed great techniques and emotional depth. Ending the second part was Solo with music of J.S. Bach's Violin Partita, No. 1 in B minor for Violin Solo, BWV 1002. This was my least favorite, though was glad that it was in the programmes because it added variation. The choreography was comprised of fast movements and steps for 3 male dancers with each taking turn to showcase speed, balance and fun. What was very effective though was the costume. Each dancer was wearing the same loose blue t-shirt with a different color of shirt inside. Every now and then, one was able to have a glimpse of individuality amidst uniformity.

The crowning glory of the evening was Live. Using a series of Liszt piano music, the choreography explored romance, disappointment and wit. It opened with a female dancer and a cameraman. The cameraman slowly forced us to see things from his point of view as shown on a giant overhead screen. When the dancer danced off stage and into the foyer to unite with a male dancer, the audience was left watching the action on screen. This piece of choreography has such a profound effect on different levels. It was very "up close and personal" that almost stepped into voyeurism. This ended the night.

But where is the big number with the whole company (or at least more than 6 dancers) on stage? I came to see the Dutch National Ballet and for some reason, I expected to see "the company". It didn't mean that I was not happy with the performances, I was just hungry for more and somehow feel cheated.

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