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A Night of Ballet
Bradley Winterton
Thursday,  Sep 28, 2017,21:07 (GMT+7)

A Night of Ballet

Bradley Winterton

The Ho Chi Minh City Ballet is presenting A Night of Ballet in the Saigon Opera House on Saturday, September 30. It contains a very varied program.

One of the main works will be a revival of Julien Guerin’s Depaysement (French for ‘displacement’), first seen as the middle item in the successful 2016 show Ballet with Tchaikovsky and Ravel. It so happens this particular work contains neither Ravel nor Tchaikovsky – they provided the music for the third and first items respectively – but instead has well-known music by Chopin, Satie, Faure, Beethoven and Albinoni. It will be performed by eight dancers, Chloe Glemot, Tran Hoang Yen and others.

Another revival is the ballet suite Carmen, also first performed in Saigon in this version in 2016. This is not Bizet’s catchy and sensuous music but a revised version of it created in 1967 by the prolific Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin. It was initially rather controversial, being considered as lacking Bizet’s unforgettable energy and fire, and was banned in the then Soviet Union for a time. The choreography to be used is that of Cuban choreographer Alberto Alonso, who in fact first created this as a ballet work.

The three principal dancers will be the same as those who took the main roles last year. Nguyen Thu Trang will be Carmen, Ho Phi Diep will dance her lover Don Jose, while the bull-fighter Escamillo will be Nguyen Luong Hoa.

It will be a pleasure to see these two shows revived. I must admit I was rather shocked by the Carmen music last time, expecting castanets and flamenco dancing. But I’m sure I will be more sympathetic to the ironic and original nature of the Shchedrin version this time round.

Especially interesting will be the first item, Duo. This is a first performance, and is the work of one of HBSO’s two resident choreographers, Nguyen Phuc Hung. It features dancers Do Hoang Khang Ninh and Sung A Lung.

Nguyen Phuc Hung and Sung A Lung collaborated back in June on another new work, Night Lullaby. There Sung A Lung was co-choreographer and principal dancer. He will be remembered, too, as the main dancer, the one on the table, in ‘Bolero’, the final item in Ballet with Tchaikovsky and Ravel. This time he will just dance, with only one partner.

The music will be by American composer Eric Whitacre. His piece for wind orchestra, Ghost Train, written at the age of 23, has been recorded over 40 times. He’s been a composer in residence at Cambridge University’s Sidney Sussex College and given talks at Oxford and Harvard universities, and at The Economist.

All in all this should be a fascinating and mixed evening. It’s impossible to believe the dancing will be at anything other than the HBSO’s usual very high standard.

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