The program that the Hong Kong Ballet presented at the Joyce Theater showed a company that is disciplined and technically accomplished. The opening pas de trois from A Room of Her Own by Fei Bo had Yu-yao Liu in a blue gown sitting at a desk writing. It’s an homage to Virginia Woolf and the other two dancers may have been characters she was writing about or memories from her past. She interacted with Miao-miao Liu and her partner, Jia-bo Li in a series of brief vignettes that were all fraught with much coming together and splitting apart. It had lots of lovely movement, especially from Miao-miao Liu. Unfortunately, it failed to create much emotional impact. Either the dancers were not adequately communicating the story or there simply wasn’t enough context to make us care about their struggle. Mostly the suffered from being too forgettable as there was no real tension or drama.

<i>A Room of her Own</i> © Conrad Dy-Liacco
A Room of her Own
© Conrad Dy-Liacco

Nacho Duato’s all male ballet Castrati followed and I have to admit that I never before thought that castration could be a viable subject for a ballet. The accompanying music was mostly baroque arias that were originally created for castrato singers. It began with a group of men wearing black cassocks and the choreography made powerful visual effects out of the costumes. By having the men jump and sweep their legs they created shapes in the air that accentuated the music. The costuming also gave strong overlay of religion which played an important part in the ritual practice of castration. Shen Jie played the young man who was eventually castrated with a fairly convincing dramatic flair. He was understandably reluctant. While some of the gestures began to be repetitive the choreography generally fit well with the music. The culmination had him emerging from a scrum with bloody hands signifying that the deed was done.

<i>Castrati</i> © Wai Lok
Castrati
© Wai Lok
The highlight of the evening was Krysztof Pastor’s In Light and Shadow which was set to music by Bach. The piece begins with the Aria from the Goldberg Variations, where Yao Jin, partnered by Wei Wei, was beautifully lyrical. She radiated a warm and soft presence. Then the company kicked into high gear. Whatever it was about Pastor’s choreography, it brought out the best in these dancers. There were several touches that elevated this piece. Lin Li, reaching around Miao-miao Liu, lifted her while simultaneously lifting her skirt making it seem as though she were doing it herself. At other times he pulled on the skirt to support her and bring her back from a lunge. Working the long skirt into the partnering added a welcome dimension of playfulness. My favorite sequence from this piece was when all the women were on stage and their lower bodies were lit with side lighting. It drew all attention to their feet for some quick and precise footwork. There were many little moments and gestures in this ballet all of which added up to a good show closer. They were loose and happy, full of expression that made it a pleasure to watch.

Hong Kong Ballet is a fairly strong company technically but the pieces they chose for the program may not have shown them off to their best advantage. I would like to see this company in some of its other repertoire to see what else they can do.

***11