The Hong Kong Ballet’s dancers welcome two guest stars as they prepare for tonight’s opening of The Nutcracker
Ahead of Thursday night’s dress rehearsal in the Grand Theatre of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, there is an atmosphere of great excitement among the dancers, as they prepare to stage this year’s first performance of The Nutcracker.
Thanks to this week’s cold weather, everyone is in a holiday mood. The dancers are feeling Christmassy, and they are ready to kick off the festive season. The Company is welcoming two international guest stars for The Nutcracker – Aki Saito, whose petite frame and girlish charm make her the perfect Clara, and Dmitry Semionov who will appear as a very tall, dashing Nutcracker.
The guests have been in Hong Kong for a little over a week, and have been taking classes with the Company as well as rehearsing with choreographer Terence Kohler. Artistic Director Madeleine Onne has assembled 5 casts for this production of The Nutcracker, featuring 5 very different dancers in the lead role of the Ballerina – Principal Dancers Jin Yao and Wu Fei-fei, and Soloists Zhang Si Yuan, Liu Yu-yao and Ye Fei-fei. Four of the girls danced as the Ballerina last year, so they have been working with Terence on bringing out their character’s personality, and on using their own unique approach to make their portrayal special. Liu Yu-yao will be making her debut as the Ballerina; after performing Clara in last year’s run, this time she has been cast for two completely different characters – the Grandmother in the Dollhouse Family and the lead role of the Ballerina. Choreographer Terence Kohler said, “In rehearsals she has been absolutely hilarious as the Grandmother! On the other hand, dancing as the Ballerina demands a technical and artistic proficiency. Not many people have the capacity to achieve such a vast contrast.”
With 14 performances scheduled from 20th – 29th December, The Hong Kong Ballet’s dancers and the guest stars are all set to celebrate the festive season with the traditional Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker.
About Aki Saito
Born and trained in Japan, Ms. Saito joined the Royal Ballet of Flanders in 1994, rising to the rank of Principal Dancer in 2004. She has danced principal roles in the Company’s classical and contemporary repertoire, and in 2009 Marcia Haydée created a new version of Swan Lake for Aki and her partner Wim Vanlessen.
Ms. Saito is also a frequently invited to appear as a guest artist with companies across the world and at dance galas, including the international gala preceding the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano. In addition, she has served as a jury member at the Prix de Lausanne in 2003, 2005, and 2007.
Aki Saito will dance the role of Clara at these performances:
Saturday 21st December – 2:30pm
Sunday 22nd December – 2:30pm
About Dmitry Semionov
Russian-born Dmitry Semionov completed his ballet training at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St Petersburg, Russia. He began his career as a soloist at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1999 before joining the Dresden SemperOper Ballet in 2006 as a Principal Dancer. He was a Principal Dancer at the Staatsballett Berlin from 2007-2013.
Dmitry has partnered many top ballerinas such as Svetlana Zakharova, Polina Semionova, Marianela Núñez and Uliana Lopatkina among others. He won several awards at the Arabesque International Ballet Competition in Perm (2006) including overall First Prize, the Yekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vassiliev award for best duet, and the special Jury of Press award.
Dmitry Semionov will dance the role of The Nutcracker at these performances:
Saturday 21st December – 7:30pm
Tuesday 24th December – 7:30pm
Thursday 26th December – 2:30pm
About The Hong Kong Ballet
One of the premier classical ballet companies in Asia, The Hong Kong Ballet is becoming internationally recognised as a world-class institution that represents Hong Kong’s unique character. November 2013 marks the 35th anniversary of The Hong Kong Ballet, a Company that has evolved into a vibrant performing arts organisation with accomplished dancers, a strong repertoire, and sparkling, technically challenging productions.
The Company’s artistic team is led by Artistic Director Madeleine Onne, with over 40 dancers originating from all over the world. The Company performs a repertoire that combines classical masterpieces and acclaimed contemporary works from the 19th to 21st centuries, as well as new commissions.
Since 1997, The Hong Kong Ballet has continued to raise its international profile with more than 30 tours. An integral part of the Company’s activities is its extensive education and community outreach programme, which brings the art of ballet to students as well as to the wider community of Hong Kong.