Cover Yang Ruiqi, one of the dancers who play Cinderella (Image: HKB Creative Studio)

The dance company’s first full-length production following a seven-month hiatus is a fresh, ambitious take on ‘Cinderella’

Hong Kong’s flagship dance company will stage Cinderella, its first live performance of the year, from July 8 to 10 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Four key members from different departments within the company tell us what unique magic they are casting to make this classic fairy tale a dream come true.

James Kronzer, set designer

My earliest memory of Cinderella is probably the 1950 Disney animation. That had a magical quality to it and I think it is every child’s dream to have something like that happening to them. I also enjoyed the visual vocabulary of that film. It was boiled down to the essential elements.

We are looking to honour the tradition of the piece but also make it relevant to today’s audience. So our production is magical at times, such as my favourite part, which is The Ball scene, because of how regal it is. We have gone over the top with it. But instead of just the magical elements, the show also presents the psyche of Cinderella when the clocks strike midnight by showing not just one clock but many that appear all of a sudden, for instance. We also rely heavily on the theme of the forest, with the whole ballet being framed by trees. The forest is a place of safety, contemplation, mourning and sometimes fear. It can also be regal and majestic.

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Septime Webre, artistic director and choreographer

My first teacher, Stanley Hall, had been in the world premiere of Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella with the Royal Ballet in 1948. He was in the corps and understudied one of the stepsisters, who were, quite riotously, performed by men en travesti [as women]. As a pre-professional student I played Prince Charming in Stanley’s version, which was homage to the Royal Ballet version. It was a seminal moment of my training years, and my new production is very much influenced by those memories.

Prokofiev’s score is the impetus behind a lot of decisions we’ve made about this production. I have danced in two other versions and staged one previously. This one is unique in a few ways: we’ve added a narrator who becomes Cinderella’s stepmother, and her hilarious monologues help guide the audience along the journey; Yoki Lai and James Kronzer’s designs are off-the-charts good; and I’ve streamlined the production a good deal by omitting one of the two intermissions, cutting the “Around the World” section which shows the prince’s search for the mysterious woman who left a shoe, and generally making the storytelling efficient and, hopefully, inspiring.

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Lucas Yung Yin Sing, narrator and stepmother

When I was a child, I loathed the stepmother and the stepsisters. The irony is that I’m playing the stepmother in this production. What surprises me, however, is that this version shows a different side to her: she seeks the best for her daughters only because she loves them and is trying to protect them at all costs. Hong Kong Ballet put on an online children’s version last March which this full-length dance production is based on.

I was also the narrator and stepmother back then, and it was a memory test for me: the 50-minute play was performed in English and Cantonese, so I had to memorise two different scripts. My mum bought me some walnuts which, according to traditional Chinese medical practice, help nourish the brain.

I worked with Theatre de la Feuille’s artistic director Ata Wong on the character’s voice and movements, and I’ll experiment with some of those skills and methods in this full version. My narration and acting add to a richer storytelling and theatrical experience to the dance drama, and give the usual ballet audience a fresh viewing experience.

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Wang Qingxin, soloist who plays Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother and the Autumn Fairy

As a dancer, I have to keep my muscles in peak condition at all times. With the temporary closure of our Cultural Centre studio in March and April, Septime and our ballet masters were hard at work finding spaces for us to practise. We had Zoom classes, and I also went hiking and rock-climbing to maintain my cardio rate. So I’m very excited that we’re returning to the stage—even more so that it’s for my first full-length Cinderella production.

The three roles I’m dancing are quite different: Cinderella is a romantic little princess who dances with the prince; with the Fairy Godmother, Septime wants me to show that I’m powerful and elegant as Cinderella’s protector; and the Autumn Fairy represents a spirit, and dances with passion. Sometimes it’s hard for me to switch between the roles. Prior to Cinderella, I was Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, which gave me some experience of executing the body language of fairies. Even if the technique of dancing the Fairy Godmother isn’t too difficult, and some of the techniques of previous shows such as The Great Gatsby, Alice or Sleeping Beauty are similar to this one, the challenge lies in presenting the characters’ attitude and feelings with our movements. In that way, every production is a new experience for me, and pushes me to prove that I’ve become better—and I think every dancer thinks the same way.

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