(Conducted in Cantonese)
Throughout time and across cultures, romantic love has often been portrayed as transcending social class and region, or even mortal and immortal existence, and mortals and celestial beings alike share the same longing to find true love.
With “The Magic of Love” as its theme, this year’s lecture series features a dozen full-length and short ballets of different styles which depict the destinies of lovers which can go from sweet and romantic to bitter and sorrowful.
19 July - La Sylphide
As suggested by the title, this famous classic from the Romantic period depicts the love story between a sylph in the woods and the mortal James, which comes to a tragic end. The ballet highlights the ethereal qualities of the sylph throughout, with the inclusion of animated and joyous dance scenes in a Scottish manor.
Danish ballet maestro August Bournonville’s choreographed version in 1836 and French choreographer Pierre Lacotte’s 1972 version represent the long ballet traditions of the Danish and French schools respectively.
Video Clips: Royal Danish Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Staatsballett Berlin
26 July - Petrushka, Lilac Garden & L'Arlésienne
Petrushka is one of the famous one act ballets by Mikhail Fokine.
Petrushka, a puppet in a puppet theatre, loves the Ballerina puppet but his love is not requited. Instead, he is bullied by another puppet, the Moor. The Charlatan only watches from the side without intervening. Petrushka is chased and stabbed by the Moor and falls to the ground.
Lilac Garden was created and choreographed by Antony Tudor. It deploys a tight-knit plot, concisely told, to portray the sadness of a couple who love each other but cannot marry. The woman, who is to marry according to her family’s wishes, is holding a banquet on the eve of her wedding to bid her friends and relatives farewell. She is overcome with an array of emotions.
L'Arlésienne, choreographed by Roland Petit, is a short but exquisite ballet with a vigorous and brisk rhythm.
The protagonist is always thinking of the Arlésienne. Even though his fiancée tends to his every need, he cannot shake away the image of his love. On his wedding day, due to the long period of mental torture, he goes insane.
Video Clips: Paris Opera Ballet, The National Ballet of China, National Ballet of Cuba, American Ballet Theatre
9 August - Romeo & Juliet
The tragedy of the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, has moved and saddened audiences down the centuries.
The ballet version choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan enjoys popular acclaim and is recognized as being best interpreted by the Royal Ballet of the UK. It is also in the stock repertory of major ballet companies in different parts of the world.
French choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot tells the story of this epic journey of love – from the young lovers’ first encounter to their suicide – through flashbacks of the priest.
Video Clips: The Royal Ballet, Teatro alla Scala Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, Korean National Ballet
16 August - Two Pigeons
Two Pigeons is a romantic ballet in two acts, created and choreographed by Frederick Ashton, interspersed with animated scenes featuring the corps de ballet.
A young artist is going to paint a portrait of his girlfriend, but stops due to a lovers’ quarrel. A gypsy girl passing by deliberately flirts with him to lure him away to follow the gypsy group’s wandering life. Soon he finds himself unwelcome among the group. So he leaves their camp, returns home and asks for his girlfriend’s forgiveness. The couple is reconciled in the end.
Video Clips: The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet
23 August - The Little Mermaid
John Neumeier transforms the well-known fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen into a work with a modern perspective. It harnesses audience impact by traversing time and space, in a staging that shows the land and the sea appearing in montage.
The Poet knows that the man he loves is getting married. To purge his broken heart, he writes the story of a little mermaid falling in love with a prince. The Mermaid, in her strong yearning for the Prince’s love, is willing to endure the pain of walking with her legs. But the Prince marries a Princess instead. Coincidentally, the Prince’s face resembles the man the Poet adores, while the Princess resembles the future wife of his love. Both the Little Mermaid and the Poet sacrifice everything for love but their love is unrequited.
Video Clips: The Hamburg Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, The National Ballet of China
30 August - Hobson’s Choice
The ballet is set in England towards the end of the 19th century. The shoe shop owner’s eldest daughter Maggie, and boot hand Will Mossop, are separated by social class and status. But since she does not want to be an old spinster, she actively finds a way out for her future. Seeing that Will is honest and hard-working, she decides to woo, and marry, Will and help him develop his business. With hard work and Maggie’s ingenuity, her father eventually consents to selling the shoe shop, so the poor Will rises from being a shoe hand to the status of a gentleman.
David Bintley's choreography is humorous and depicts human sensibilities in an ingenious way.
Video Clips: Birmingham Royal Ballet
6 September - Ondine
Building on the choreographic style of the 19th century Romantic tradition, Frederick Ashton highlights the unique features of his characters and presents this fascinating but tragic story about love through the mysterious set design of the magical deep sea and original ballet score.
The water nymph, Ondine, meets Palemom and they fall in love. They marry despite one being a mortal and the other a water nymph. Unfortunately Ondine is smeared by villains and is separated from Palemon. Palemon remarries, and on his wedding day, Ondine and other water sprites appear at the banquet. Unable to contain his excitement at seeing Ondine again, Palemon kisses her despite the death spell, and dies in Ondine’s arms.
Video Clips: The Royal Ballet
13 September - The Golden Age
Set in the 1920’s when Lenin had just promulgated the new economic policy, this three-act ballet is choreographed by the famous Russian choreographer, Yuri Grigorovich. It tells the love story of a cabaret dancer, Rita, and her upright and hard-working fisherman-lover, Boris. The leader of a gang controlling the cabaret and the gangsters have all committed many crimes. They try their best to thwart the relationship between Rita and Boris. The latter summons the help of his mates to counter the gangsters, and after bringing them before the law, he starts a new life with Rita.
Video Clips: Bolshoi Ballet
20 September - Onegin
An innocent maiden, Tatiana, falls in love with Onegin, a proud man of the world. She writes him a letter to declare her love, but is rudely rebuffed. After an act of offence with his good friend Lenski, Onegin kills him with a gun in a duel. Many years later, Tatiana marries Prince Gremin. When Onegin meets Tatiana again at the banquet, he suddenly realises his past mistakes and pleads with Tatiana to resume their love. Tatiana knows full well her married status and orders Onegin to leave.
John Cranko is lauded for his inclusion of many pas de deux by the protagonists in various scenes, which aptly deliver the emotional state of the characters and helps move the plot forward.
Video Clips: Stuttgart Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, The National Ballet of China, The National Ballet of Canada
27 September - La Chauve-souris
La Chauve-souris is the French title for Johann Strauss II’s operetta, Die Fledermaus. Roland Petit choreographed it into a delightful and humorous ballet in two acts.
The husband is tired of a family life in which his wife always mills about the household chores, and their young children are constantly bickering. In the small hours of the night, he grows a pair of wings and flies out of the family home to have a drunken night out, and perhaps, a fling. The wife, on the advice of a friend, dresses up as a glamorous lady to attend the masked ball to trick her husband. When the husband gets infatuated with the glamorous lady, the police who patrol the area come to search the ball venue. The husband is arrested and put in prison. He is not released until his wife bails him out. She takes him home, and offers him his slippers again. It is only then does he realise how precious his wife’s love is.
Video Clips: Teatro alla Scala Ballet, The National Ballet of China
Each lecture lasts for 2 hours without intermission.
The speaker reserves the right to change the content(s) selected for screening.
Speaker: Margaret Lau
Margaret Lau, seasoned ballet freelance writer and speaker of this lecture series, holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Hong Kong; she also holds a Bachelor’s degree and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education from the Faculty of Education of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. She was a dance instructor for Recreation & Sport Service and Ng Sheung Ha School of Ballet, and a business manager for the City Contemporary Dance Company. Over the years, she has written commentaries and feature articles for newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong and the ballet section of the publication A Dance History of Hong Kong. Commissioned by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Hong Kong Arts Festival Society Limited, Macao Cultural Centre, and other organisations, she has written feature articles, conducted guided appreciation talks for dance performances, and translated house programmes for dance performances. She also translated teaching materials and prospectuses for the teaching certificate programmes of the Royal Academy of Dance. She was the instructor for the “Meet the Critics Arts Criticism Mentorship Programme” organised by the International Association of Theatre Critics (Hong Kong) and the School of Continuing Education, Hong Kong Baptist University. Between 1995 and 1999, she was a member of the Dance Advisory Team of the former Urban Council. She has been the speaker of the Ballet Appreciation Lecture Series since 2009. Some of her published works are: Twinkle Twinkle Dance Stars, Chinese Ballet Sketches and Chinese Dancers in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, etc. Lau has a passion for ballet. She travels extensively to appreciate and cover on dance performances. Her experience and knowledge would undoubtedly enhance the public’s understanding about ballet and add more fun in performance appreciation.
Lecture Series on Appreciating Ballet – 'The Magic of Love'
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The running time of each session is approximately 2 hours without intermission.
The programme does not represent the views of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
The presenter reserves the right to change the programme and substitute speaker.