Dutch National Ballet
There is an appetite for dance in Hong Kong. Dance schools are well supported, there is a healthy interest in local ballet and dance troupes along with solid support for live performances. Moreover, whenever dance is featured in a musical performance, as it was at both Cafe de los Maestros and Ojos de Brujos, patrons […]
There is an appetite for dance in Hong Kong. Dance schools are well supported, there is a healthy interest in local ballet and dance troupes along with solid support for live performances. Moreover, whenever dance is featured in a musical performance, as it was at both Cafe de los Maestros and Ojos de Brujos, patrons respond immediately.
Perhaps that is why the audiences for the dance events at the Hong Kong Arts Festival are often the best behaved and engaged. Certainly this was the case on Thursday night for the first of the Dutch National Ballet’s three performances this year.
The programme comprised three short pieces choreographed by Hans van Manen. This structure meant that as an audience we spent almost as much time walking in and out of the theatre and milling around the foyer as we did actually watching the performers.
The irony of this was driven home by the last piece, Live, which involved the main dancers eventually leaving the theatre and performing in the foyer, while we the seated audience watch via video relay on a large screen.
Jesting aside, Live is an important piece from the early 70s and like the other items performed (Adagio Hammerklavier and Concertante), formed a smart programme of pieces that showcased the not just the energy of the group but also sharp, astute and minimal choreography and set design as well as the intelligence of modern dance.
Each piece brought modern, athletic and sensual dance moves to classical pieces of music. Each piece challenged us to see how dance has a natural an exhaustive vocabulary for exploring human relationships. Moreover, each piece was a perfectly crafted example of minimalist staging. Simple backdrops, well throughout and unobtrusive lighting – the focus always on the performance and the music – the dancers and their place on the stage.
And, in our voyeuristic age it was fitting that we had an engaging and seductive reprise of Live. As the dancers are removed from us – they seduce each other, and in turn seduce the camera – we are seduced instead by the image on screen, by the representation of the dance. The “reality” of the dance is always held at a distance from us. In the end, as the dancer walks out of the building and into the night, we are still gripped by our seats, unable to bring her back. We are patrons, consumers, with little real power over the art we have experienced.
The Dutch National Ballet gave us a powerful, if all too brief reminder of how insightful, engaging and humbling modern dance can be. Brilliant.