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The 12th International Ballet Gala in Kuala Lumpur was a lively affair, writes Subhadra Devan
TAN Yuan Yuan’s solo performance of the Habanera excerpt in Alberto Alonso’s Carmen is proving to be unforgettable.
Sexy in red, it was more than her extensions, more than her long legs that started from the tips of her toes that made the audience at Istana Budaya hold their breath.
She was total grace embodied.
When this San Francisco Ballet Company principal dancer performed the renowned, pulsating tango-like Habanera, you could feel the sizzle from her Carmen as she evocatively danced the phrase: “If you love me not, then I love you/ You’d best beware!”
Carmen, the Spanish heroine in George Bizet’s four-act opera, is about the downfall of a soldier, Don Jose, who is seduced by the gypsy called Carmen. The femme fatale dies at the end.
The Habanera — danced to the aria meaning Love Is A Rebellious Bird — comes early in the opera, and is famous for the aria and even the music.
The China-born ballerina, popularly referred to as Yuan Yuan Tan in the West, was surely the highlight of the 12th International Ballet Gala in Kuala Lumpur that showcased 12 other international dancers and from Malaysia, Steve Goh and Aswara Dance Company.
The gala, held over the July 14 weekend, was organised by The Dance Society of Malaysia in collaboration with Danceworks Production.
The opening dance by Aswara was the Terinai, a court dance from Perlis. In retrospect, once the ballet pieces took off, the Terinai seemed out of place in the western repertoire presented that Sunday afternoon. Once performed only for royalty, I could appreciate the finer point and sentiment of dancing the Terinai for the ballet gala audience. But it came across as slow, with no ending. It was just a dance piece against all the classical opera excerpts that day.
One classical opera excerpt, among many others, was danced by Ena Hirose from Japan’s Ena Ballet Company.
Ena was a joy to watch in The Red Violin’s Pas de Deux.
Partnered by Hironao Takahashi (as stated in the programme book), the exacting lifts coupled with Ena’s flouncy outfit lent for admiration for technique. She was lifted, her leg in a grand arabesque, and when her partner lowered her to the ground, her foot made for perfect contact for her to stand on pointe, move into an arabesque, and pirouette. Lift after lift, pirouette after pirouette. And there was not a single fall or falter. The timing was perfect every time. The piece choreographed by Jie Choong Wan-Chin demanded much from both dancers.
I thoroughly enjoyed the comedic Le Grand Pas de Deux by Jin Yao, principal dancer, and Wei Wei, soloist, both of the Hong Kong Ballet Company.
It was fun to watch Wei Wei prancing with her handbag, in this short tale of a courting couple. The choreography by Christian Spuck was still classical with a modern touch.
The good looks of principal dancer Joseph Walsh from the Houston Ballet did help enliven the duets from Madame Butterfly and The Sleeping Beauty, where he partnered Karina Gonzalez. But by now, I was ready for some contemporary ballet or ballet pieces choreographed to Asian tragedies, and we have many examples of the latter including the tragic Romeo and Juliet love story of China’s The Butterfly Lovers.
That said, the ballet gala was undeniably a good opportunity for Malaysians to witness the excellence of these international dancers.