Shen Jie as Peter Pan with Venus Villa as Wendy in Peter Pan. Photo: Conard Dy-Liacco/Hong Kong Ballet

The Hong Kong Ballet opened its new 2019/20 season last weekend with an exciting premiere of Peter Pan. The choreographer is the company’s artistic director Septime Webre, who has staged this production for several ballet companies in America.

This is the Hong Kong Ballet’s third season led by Webre.

Lasting only two hours, this streamlined two-act version is divided into five scenes. The first and last scenes are set in the home of the Darling family. Webre’s narrative is clear and concise. The ballet contains the right ingredients to please the children in the audience who are still enjoying their summer holidays, with especially clever stage effects.

The extensive use of wire-flying enables Peter Pan, Wendy and her siblings to be airborne quite often. And there is a cute crocodile as well as a big, huggable dog. Also, the imaginative scene with children dressed as cannonballs being ejected from a big cannon is good fun.

Hong Kong Ballet Dancers in Holly Highfill’s colorful sets. Photo: Tony Luk/Hong Kong Ballet

Webre’s choreography is superb. Act 1 has plenty of satisfying dancing. Peter Pan makes a spectacular first entrance while airborne. And his first duet with Wendy is airborne, depicting a flying lesson.

Tinkerbell has several solos of dazzling turns. In the second scene set in Neverland, there is a series of classical divertissements. The best is the female Indian dance led by Princess Tiger Lily, which is full of vibrancy. And towards the end of Act 1, there is a hilarious dance with Peter Pan disguised as a maiden to distract Captain Hook in order to rescue Tiger Lily.

In Act 2, the pirates’ dance is slightly repetitive, before the climactic sword fighting between Peter Pan and Captain Hook. The final scene when Wendy sees Peter Pan through the window is quite touching.

Hong Kong Ballet Dancers as pirates and pirate wenches with (center) Luis Torres as Captain Hook in Peter Pan. Photo: Conard Dy-Liacco/Hong Kong Ballet

The company danced with bright energy in this premiere. All the lead roles were strongly cast. In the title role, Shen Jie had a winning innocence as well as a dazzling virtuosity. Luis Torres was a menacing Captain Hook. Venus Villa had a sweet radiance as Wendy. Chen Zhiyao was dazzling as Tiger Lily, while Kim Eunsil sparkled as Tinkerbell.

Special praise should go to brilliant student Nicolas Yu, who was dancing with such confidence as Michael Darling. In the second cast, Li Lin also impressed as Peter Pan. Carmon DeLeone’s Disney-style music score is very conducive to dancing and was well performed by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta conducted by Gerry Cornelius.

Nicolas Yu (top) with Forrest Rain Oliveros as Nana the Dog. Photo: Conard Dy-Liacco/Hong Kong Ballet

Liz Vandal’s costume designs are fine. Holly Highfill’s set designs are colorful, especially the backdrop depicting the lush green forest in Neverland. Hong Kong Ballet’s new Peter Pan is truly a winner.

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