THE NUTCRACKER | Hong Kong, Cultural Centre

Choreographed by Terence Kohler, Hong Kong Ballet’s 2012 Christmas cracker is back for another year. While faithful enough to the original story, this modern interpretation is charged with hilarious absurdities and madcap choreography, to the extent that it often feels more like an expert clown piece than a ballet. It’s so delightful to hear the auditorium filled with the sound of children and adults laughing.

It may seem odd to begin a review discussing the music, but the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, conducted by Fayçal Karoui, give us the finest playing of Tchaikovsky’s iconic score that you are ever likely to hear: even if you think you never need to hear “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” again, this world-class ensemble will dazzle you. (We can forgive the one or two short moments of choir-replacement synthesiser.)

Heavy, clown-like choreography in the first half gives way to sublime lightness after the interval, as Christmas tree dolls come to life. Bravura leaps from the Spanish doll (Li Lin) are gasp-inducing, and exotic, avant-garde contortions from the Egyptian doll (Chen Zhiyao) offers a moment of beautiful contrast.

The most rousing ovation from the audience goes to the Nutcracker (Li Jiabo) and the Ballerina (Ye Feifei) for their celebratory series of duets, after they unfreeze each other from the spell of the Rat King (Forrest Rain Oliveros) with the power of their love. Well, it is Christmas.

Hong Kong Ballet’s The Nutcracker plays 19 – 29 December 2019.

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