ALICE (in wonderland) | Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Grand Theatre

Hong Kong Ballet’s artistic director Septime Webre’s full-length ballet, based on the iconic Lewis Carroll characters, has enjoyed worldwide success since its premiere for Washington Ballet in 2012. Revived again in front of a sell-out crowd of all ages, we can be sure this production is here to stay.

Although ostensibly a short, family-friendly ballet, the choreography remains incredibly challenging, and Asia’s premier ballet company rise to the challenge. There are so many showstopping ensemble moments, including a dizzying criss-cross parade of flamingo showgirls, and a farce-style comic dance of revolving doors, with tons of ingenious aerial work and puppetry to boot. The ensemble is puffed up by a hilariously enthusiastic children’s dance corps.

Choreographer Webre and costume designer Liz Vandal have been called “soul mates”: there is no doubt that the “visual riot” of the S&M Victoriana makes our eyes pop: it’s a credit to the company that the costumes don’t actually upstage the dance. And yet, Matthew Pierce’s minimalist score for small string ensemble and percussion (here played pre-recorded) suggests a chamber piece, as reflected by James Kronzer’s blank-canvas, white-framed set.

The strange title perhaps refers to the fact that, in this adaptation, Alice (Ruiqi Yang) is no longer trying to escape Wonderland, as she hops and skips around, grinning ear-to-ear at all the kooky characters that, in the original, threaten and infuriate her. Despite the complete lack of stakes and drama, the visual splendour is more than enough to make this a spectacular ballet.

Playing 12 – 15 August 2021 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre.

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