John Neumeier’s “The Little Mermaid”

Spent a sick weekend in bed and in front of the TV. I hate it when the weather is responsible for my feeling unwell, but it really seems this is happening here in Hong Kong more than everywhere else. I don’t deal well with the heat and humidity here.

So, I had bought like 12 DVDs of classical and modern ballet pieces a few weeks ago, and then finally watched “The Little Mermaid” in a performance by The San Francisco Ballet. Tan Yuan Yuan, named THE Chinese ballerina here in Hong Kong, played the mermaid.

I had loved the book when my mother read it to me as a child, and in the version we had of Andersen’s fairy tales, there were some pretty dark illustrations, so I always thought the story a little scary, too. A few year later, I love Arielle, of course, which was the Disney-ized version of the story, and I still sometimes sing the songs.

In February, I had seen John Neumeier’s “A Streetcar Named Desire”, and had loved it a lot. The flexed foots, the beautiful costumes in pastel colors, the original and powerful choreography, the elements of boxing and theater, the stage setting, …

These were three imageries were what I had in mind before I watched the ballet.

Now, in short: I loved The Little Mermaid.

It started with the beautiful entree, the excellent stage design, incredibly beautiful dancers and choreography, and an amazingly strong and wild Tan Yuan Yuan. I read a blog entry here, and could not describe it better. I regret I only saw it on DVD, and I can’t wait to see it live – somewhere, somewhen.


One Week Without Ballet

So, here I am, doing everything to save three nights of each and every single week for ballet: Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The perfect combination, with one day of rest in between, and the perfect variety of classes: Intermediate – basic beginner – intermediate.

Last week, I didn’t attend a single class.

On Monday, on my drive to work in the morning, my stomach was telling me that it didn’t really feel comfortable, and in the course of the day, pain in my shoulders and exhaustion added on top of it, so I decided to go home and take an early rest. Less one ballet class. And hard feelings on Tuesday that I should have just forced myself into going and would have felt better after it.

On Wednesday, I had to stay back at work on very short notice. I normally finish at six, while the gallery stays open until seven, and whenever someone needs to leave early, I am the one extending my hours. I made it clear that I would leave at 6:30 to be on time for my ballet class. But, then, between six and 6:50, there was someone lingering in the gallery all the time. Normally, no one comes around that time, but Wednesday, no one wanted to leave. So when I was finally able to close down the gallery without having to throw someone out, it was too late to even bother to go to class. With the MTR ride, the walk, the changing, I would have arrived no earlier than center work. Once more: hard feelings on the day after, but this time towards my colleagues. And some cursing my sense of duty.

Friday, last chance to ballet this week: I feel fine, am looking forward, I even tell friends I will meet them after class and they will have to wait for me. Then, after lunch, a sudden outbreak of nausea and the feeling feverish. Although I took two cold pills immediately, by six my stomach is still really upset and I don’t feel like I should be dancing. So, I go home and to bed, and I couldn’t sleep the whole night.

Summary: No ballet for a whole week. I feel fat, I feel weak, I feel clumsy, and stressed. Ballet not only makes me feel better about myself in my body, but also with my soul. It relaxes me.


4 Tendances, Ballet de l’Opera Nationale de Bordeaux, Hong Kong, June 9, 2012

I was happy on Saturday. I went to see the contemporary program by the Ballet de l’Opera Nationale de Bordeaux, 4 Tendances, and in my layman’s eyes, it turned out to be much better than the classical one. I still spotted some mistakes, but then, I guess you always do, and I was fascinated by the depth and emotionality conveyed in the dances.

My favourite piece was the last one, Petite Mort, a choreography by Jiri Kylian. I loved the music, the costumes, and the choreography. Everything fit together wonderfully in my eyes.

Here is a video on youtube by another company, the Netherlands Dance Theatre.

In the Steps of Petipa, Ballet de l’Opera Nationale de Bordeaux, June 7, 2012, Hong Kong

I went to see “In the Steps of Petipa” yesterday, and had much anticipated this opportunity of seeing ballet. Now, dear readers, be patient and forgiving with me, as this is going to be my first ballet review.

First of all, I need to stress that my ballet education, both by watching and by dancing myself, started less than a year ago, so this is far from being an expert review – it is just my amateurish two cents.

They started the evening with excerpts from Paquita, then Don Quichotte, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and finally, Raymonda. In my memory stay the Don Quichotte and Raymonda. The rest of it kind of blurred in my memory, so I won’t be able to go into much detail.

I was slightly disappointed with the dancers after a few minutes. There was a row of dancers doing developpes in front, and their extensions were different by, I’d say, 70 centimeters or so. While one of the girls only lifted her leg up to her knee, most of the other ones lifted them up to their shoulders, so the impression I got was not one of equality and harmony, but more of chaos and disorder.

It continued like this: Dancers were out of line, out of tune with the music. Some of them were out of balance when doing an arabesque, and not even on demi-pointe, but on the whole foot. The jumps of the male dancers were low, and well, somehow nothing fit really perfectly, all seemed to be a kind of patchwork.

It seems very harsh to say this, especially as I don’t have a lot of experience with this, but yes, I guess this is what it felt like. I was impressed by the Don Quichotte part and by the technical abilities of the ballerina doing the Swan Lake pas de deux. And I thoroughly enjoyed the evening none the less. Such a good opportunity to see and watch and learn. I am looking forward to seeing their modern program “Tendances” tomorrow.

If you want to know more, read the post of fellow blogger Cynthia.

There is Light

A few weeks ago, when it was raining heavily after ballet class, and one of my fellow classmates was nice enough to share her umbrella with me on the way to the MTR, we chatted. About ballet, of course. She is an adult beginner, too, but more advanced than I am.

“It really helps you feel better, too”, she said, and I said: “Yes, that is true. I can feel that already although I am not progressing in dancing a lot.” And then she said: “Well, after six months, you will really feel that something is changing in your dancing, and your body.”

I felt bad when she said that, as I had been taking ballet lessons for more than six months already. But I have been thinking about it a lot.

And then came yesterday.

My Wednesday class is the most basic beginner class I take. The teacher makes us do easy moves and focuses a lot on the right technique. Yesterday, with the new month, came a new grade. She said we are doing Grade 5 stuff now. Which means that we added some arm movement and some turns to the basic plies and battements glisses, and we did frappes for the first time.

Although the barre exercises were new, I could follow them easily, and I managed to do some of them without a single mistake. That was fun, I’m telling you. It felt differently, more successful, more ballerina-like. Also, after class, my body felt differently. The sore muscles of my inner thighs tell me that I did the plies right, which I am very happy about.

Maybe that is what my classmate was talking about?

The Fourth of June

I have been living in China on and off for almost six years now. That is a little less than one fifth of my life and more than a third of my adult life.
I have studied China for longer than that, have read about it, listened to Chinese music, watched Chinese movies, and even danced Chinese dance.
Every year on the fourth of June, there comes this one moment of recognition: Today is the day of the Tiananmen killings. I see the image of the young man in front of a row of tanks in front of my inner eye, I hear the voice of the radio in the movie Lan Yu that announces that everything has taken an end or a similar euphemism, and I think about this huge square full of screaming and bleeding people as I imagine them in front of my inner eye.

I also see the Goddess of Democracy, that was built by art students.

(Image from here)

Yesterday, on my way to ballet class, I took the MTR Island Line that was more crowded than usual. I was wondering if an accident had happened, or whether something in sports was going on, and only when I saw a sign that indicated the way to the assembly square, I realized that a demonstration was forming, and due to the date, it could only be in remembrance of the Tiananmen massacre in 1989.

Something of this kind would be impossible on the mainland, and I was impressed by the crowd of young people, who were probably not even born in 1989, moving towards the square. For a second I was hesitating whether I should join them, but then my desire to dance won my inner fight. But I decided to dance for them, those who died, those who lost friends and family, those who were injured, those who left China in the aftermath, those who were and still are imprisoned, and those who lost a lot of opportunities on that day.

And then there’s Ai Weiwei, who, as always, puts in strong gestures, what seems to be needing so many words:

Ai Weiwei
Study of Perspective – Tiananmen
1995-2010 (this one is from 1998)
32.5 x 43.5 cm
© Ai Weiwei