BALANCHINE’S JEWELS | Hong Kong, Lyric Theatre, HKAPA

Originally staged for the massive New York State Theater in 1967, it’s an interesting decision for Hong Kong Ballet to showcase these jewels in a case less than half the size at HKAPA. It’s a credit to Asia’s premier ballet company that everything still glitters.

Rubies, the second of the three acts, draws an incredible crowd response. Set to an unpredictable Capriccio by Stravinsky, the dancers bagatelle across the stage in playful synchronicity, evoking harlequins or toy soldiers, seemingly in spite of the threatening, chaotic music. The company are somehow able to convey the necessary strident confidence and playful lightness at the same time: an amazing achievement.

Diamonds, the third act, closes with a magnificent parade of men and women hand-in-hand, as if entering a grand ball. Set to Tchaikovsky’s grandiose 3rd Symphony, it is a truly dazzling way to finish. Emeralds, the first act, features some very impressive footwork from the female soloists, but unfortunately the duets and trios seem to lack the romantic passion we hear in Fauré’s music.

Speaking of music, the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, conducted by Robert Reimer, sound absolutely great. Hats off to impressive young pianist Rachel Cheung, who shakes, rattles and rolls the piano in Rubies, and the gutsy solo violin throughout (concertmaster Amelia Chan). Strange to see this iconic piece staged so differently, but a gem is still a gem.

Playing 21 – 23 May 2021 at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

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