The Hong Kong Ballet (HKB) will return to Macau this weekend for three performances of one of the most popular classical works in ballet, “The Nutcracker”, which will be among the final shows under the leadership of the company’s director.
Produced by the Hong Kong Ballet, the piece was conceived by Terence Kohler, a young Australian choreographer who has constructed a revised visual approach to his interpretation of the classic tale.
Swedish-born Madeleine Onne, the artistic director of the HKB, sat down with the press yesterday at the Macao Cultural Center to recall how Macau has been an important destination during her eight years at the HKB. She said it was the first place that the ballet company had toured with her at the helm and that it will also be the last. She has also worked with ballet dancers, including children, from Macau in previous recitals of “Swan Lake”.
Onne was joined yesterday by lead dancers Yao Jin from Jilin, China and Ryo Kato from Japan, who will portray the characters of “Ballerina” and “Nutcracker,” respectively, in the performances tonight and on Sunday.
“Hong Kong ballet made my dream,” said Yao, who trained at the Beijing Dance Academy before joining the National Ballet of China. “In China, I learned a lot and received good training but that was not enough. I wanted to go out and touch Western culture. I started with Hong Kong because that’s easier for a Chinese [person].”
Meanwhile, her colleague Ryo Kato expressed how much he had learned from the HKB. He had previously studied in Portugal, which he said “is stronger with contemporary pieces, rather than classical.”
Founded in 1979, the HKB is one of Asia’s most celebrated classical dance companies, with a repertoire that includes 19th – 21st century classical pieces, contemporary works and newly-commissioned ballets. The ballet company has performed in Macau on several occasions, including a rendition of “Cinderella” in 2009.
“When I took over [as HKB head], I saw a company of incredible technical ability, [but] I saw all the dancers trying to copy each other exactly,” said Onne, reflecting on her career in Hong Kong. “Where I come from, we don’t have that brilliant technique so we [compensate] by bringing our own styles.”
“Now, if you see 10 ‘Nutcrackers’ they will all be completely different. It took a little while for the dancers to get comfortable with that [experimenting with their own style],” added Onne. She joked that her performers today may go too far in their own expression and interpretation, and may need some reining in.
“I tried to make a group that works well together and I think I have succeeded.”
There are about 50 dancers in the group, comprised of about 11 nationalities. About 60 percent of them are from China and six are from Hong Kong.
“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really is,” said Onne, “because dancers really like to move around and go to different countries.”
The three performances will be held tonight, tomorrow night and on Sunday afternoon at the Grand Auditorium of CCM.