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Seasoned dancers set Swan Lake off to a flying start

By Chitralekha Basu | HK EDITION | Updated: 2024-06-07 17:43
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Ye Feifei does a midair split as the White Swan Odette. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Hong Kong Ballet's 2023-24 season finale is a new production of that mother of all classical ballets - Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. The tale of a doomed romance between a prince and a girl trapped in the body of a swan is to ballet companies what Shakespeare's Hamlet is to theater groups. It's the most obvious piece to revisit every few years - Hong Kong Ballet's last Swan Lake, choreographed by Australian ballet director John Meehan, was staged in 2008 - for each new production serves as a touchstone of both the company's professional standards as well as its ability to present a classic in a way that speaks to the present moment.

It was never in doubt that the Hong Kong Ballet dancers are on a par with those of the world's finest dance companies. Choosing the company's most seasoned ballerina, Ye Feifei, to dance the excruciatingly demanding roles of the swan-maiden Odette and her evil doppelganger Odile seems to have paid off, big time. The deliciously textured performance delivered by Ye is doubtless the product of experience. In Act II, as Odette, dancing her first pas de deux with Prince Siegfried, when the characters have just met and instantly smitten with each other, she embodies a gamut of emotions - hope, fear, pain and affection for the beloved, all rolled into one. By the time she makes her entry as the Black Swan Odile, the last traces of her fragile and tormented earlier persona have been erased completely. Dancing the coda from the pas de deux in Act III, which involves performing a series of relentless pirouettes, Ye shoots triumphant smiles at the audience. For all the hype around Matthew Ball - an internationally feted dancer and model and a star of The Royal Ballet - who is cast opposite her as Prince Siegfried, it's Ye's show all the way.

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