Hong Kong Ballet

Article excerpt

HONG KONG BALLET ST. LAWRENCE CENTRE FOR THE ARTS TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA MAY 7, 2004

Stephen Jefferies, artistic director of the Hong Kong Ballet, says it took him seven years to devise his two-act spectacle, Legend of the Great Archer. Even if he had toiled another seven years it is unlikely be would have found a workable way to compress so much storytelling into two hours. This retelling of the ancient Chinese legend has too much plot and too little dance. Combined with Canada-based Chinese composer Kuan Nai-chung's bombastic score, a blend of Western neo-Romanticism and Chinese harmonics, it makes for a wearisome experience.

Given its epic emotions and convoluted plot, the story might better lend itself to opera than ballet. The Emperor promises his daughter, Princess Jade, to whomever can rid the land of a plague of scorching suns. Yi, the great archer-god, arrives to do the job but, for reasons never made clear, provokes the ire of the Supreme God and is demoted to mortal status. Yi's contingent romance with Jade has infuriated Feng, the Emperor's chief bodyguard and Jade's secret lover. Meanwhile, Jade's nameless maid is in unrequited love with Feng. And so it goes. …