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Subject: "Swan Lake in Hong Kong" Archived thread - Read only
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Kevin Ng

16-09-01, 04:32 PM (GMT)
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"Swan Lake in Hong Kong"
   LAST EDITED ON 16-09-01 AT 04:59 PM (GMT)

Hong Kong Ballet's artistic director Stephen Jefferies mounted a new production of "Swan Lake' in 1996 not long after he took office. This production was revived at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre on Thursday with only partial success.

The opening night's performance did not measure up to the usual standards of the company as a regional company in Asia. There was an air of tentativeness which betrayed first-night nerves. The corps de ballet of swans, which was of different sizes and shapes, lacked a stylistic uniformity both below and above the waist. Raggedness showed in the upper body, especially in the arms. Their dancing was sloppy on this occasion. A common weakness pervasive in the company was musicality, or rather the lack of it. The dancers in general seemed to dance pose-by-pose, with no regard for phrasing to the music. Also the dancers' weak turn-out and inadequate classical technique made their dancing look small-scaled and strained in this classic.

In view of the Hong Kong Ballet's limited resources in having just over 40 dancers, it was wise of Jefferies to scale down the total number of swans in this production from the normal 24 to 18, as well as the national dances in Act 3. It is no loss that the Mazurka has been omitted altogether, since the company has no suitable character dancers who can do justice to it, as well as to the Czardas which has however been retained.

The merit of this production is in the choreographic text which is more or less faithful to the traditional choreography of Petipa/Ivanov especially in Act 2, which Jefferies, a former Royal Ballet principal, must have known from Sir Anthony Dowell's 1987 production for the Royal Ballet as well as the previous production. Jefferies' own choreography in other places, e.g. the Act 1 waltz and the whole of the last act, is pedestrian. Benno dances in the Act 1 pas de trois in this production.

The opening night's Swan Queen was danced by Zhang Jian, a young guest artist from the National Ballet of China, a finer classical company which undertook a successful tour to Copenhagen and Hong Kong last year with "La Sylphide". Miss Zhang has a pleasing long line. Her Odette had a gentle temperament; and as Odile, she dazzled in the famous series of 32 'fouette' turns by throwing in some doubles.

I wish she could have had a taller partner than principal Liang Jing who did not provide her with much emotional rapport. Liang tried to cram in too many difficult steps, for instance 'double assembles en tournant', in Siegfried's Act 3 solo, at the expense of a clean finish. (Siegfried does not have a variation at the end of Act 1 in this production.) Amuer Calderon's von Rothbart was one-dimensionally evil. There was some unnecessary over-acting in the supporting performances, which should be toned down.

Peter Farmer's set designs were tasteful though somewhat gloomy, due to the predominance of dark colours. I was reminded of his more recent sets for the Kirov Ballet's "Manon" which I saw in London in June. Dim lighting on the first night spoiled the final tableau which was meant to show Odette and Siegfried uniting in death.

(Parts of this review have appeared in the "South China Morning Post".)

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Swan Lake in Hong Kong Hu Xinxin 18-09-01 1
     RE: Swan Lake in Hong Kong Susy 18-09-01 2
         Japan Kevin Ng 18-09-01 3
         RE: Swan Lake in Hong Kong HuXinxi‚Ž 19-09-01 4
         RE: Swan Lake in Hong Kong Bruce Madmin 19-09-01 5

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Hu Xinxin

18-09-01, 11:02 AM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Swan Lake in Hong Kong"
In response to message #0
   Thanks Kevin.
Zhang Jian is one of the most important dancers with NBC.@She was with Houston Ballet last year, but managed to come back right before the company's tour to Denmark.
By the way, I saw Nina Annaiashvili with Sergei Filin and Andrei Uvarov and Possokov (of SF ballet) and other dancers last night at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan.
She was still very excellent.

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18-09-01, 01:41 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Swan Lake in Hong Kong"
In response to message #1
   I wonder if Nina Ananiashvili dances well only in Japan... She guested one year ago with La Scala Ballet in Nureyev's "Swan lake" and she was terribly disappointing both from the technical and the artistic point of view. But maybe she wasn't confortable with Nureyev's production, which requires a lot of stamina and a very lyrical approach to the roles.

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Kevin Ng

18-09-01, 03:55 PM (GMT)
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3. "Japan"
In response to message #2
   Susy, you've seen Nina Ananiashvili more recently than I have. I last saw her in Giselle with the ABT in New York several years ago.
Xinxin, I look forward to hearing more about the various performances that you will be seeing in Tokyo this month.

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19-09-01, 05:27 AM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Swan Lake in Hong Kong"
In response to message #2
   Sorry@Susy,I donft agree with you.
I donft have a lot of opportunities to see her, but I would like to tell you my experience with Nina.
In ABT Spring Gala 1996, she danced Dying Swan. It was not very great (for me). Later, on May 11 or 12(or 13? Sorry I forgot the exact date) she danced a great Swan Lake, with Mr. Colins (wrong spelling?) as the prince. It was a much more exciting performance than the one with Julie Kent / Malakhov (though I think Nina is a better black swan than white swan).
She came to Beijing in 1997(as I remember) with her small company and did a great D Q pdd and some other dances. But when she came again the following year (or 2 years later, sorry I can not remember exactly), she looked rather tired and could not dance very well.
On September 17, at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, she danced Stevensonfs Rachmaninov Prelude with Andrei Uvarov, then Black Swan PDD with Sergei Filin, and then Sleeping Beauty with Uvarov, and DQ pdd (without the first variation ) with Uvarov as the encore piece. I think she was very great this time. She not only did some speedy fouettes (both in Black Swan pdd and DQ), but also showed her excellent balancing ability. In Rose Adagio, she held her attitude on pointe for more than 10 seconds. Later, when she danced DQ pdd, she stopped there for more than 15 seconds (I think, because I counted 20 with a tempo slower than my pulse). She looked very pretty in Sleeping Beauty and quite dignified in Black Swan pdd.
I think the real problem with her is that she guests a lot. But If she is in good condition, she can dance very well as ever before.
Kevin, I will try to see Silvie Guilem the next month.So far all tickets are sold out.

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Bruce Madmin

19-09-01, 06:46 AM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Swan Lake in Hong Kong"
In response to message #2
   >I wonder if Nina Ananiashvili dances
>well only in Japan... She
>guested one year ago with
>La Scala Ballet in Nureyev's
>"Swan lake" and she was
>terribly disappointing both from the
>technical and the artistic point
>of view. But maybe she
>wasn't confortable with Nureyev's production,
>which requires a lot of
>stamina and a very lyrical
>approach to the roles.

I've always thought of Nina as one of the very best dancers in the world - in my own top three. She danced very well with the Bolshoi in London 2 summers ago. This link brings up all the reviews pieces we have for her, many of which are of that London Season:

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