Hong Kong Ballet’s “Alice in Wonderland”

Hong Kong Ballet Hong Kong Ballet

The Hong Kong Ballet’s Asian premiere of Artistic Director Septime Webre’s Alice in Wonderland opens tonight with the composer Matthew Pierce conducting the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong and Cuban ballerina Venus Villa dancing the lead.

Venus Villa, Hog Kong Ballet
Venus Villa, Hong Kong Ballet

Alice in Wonderland was first performed in 2012 at the Washington Opera, Webre’s previous posting. The Washington Post called the debut “trippy” and “dazzling”. That it is. Like some of the best modern art, the sets are both spare and colorful. The staging is ingenious: the dancers grow, shrink and soar while caterpillars grow wings.

The score, for strings and percussion, is evocative and accessible, with hints of music from lands as varied as Alice’s own adventures. Pierce both conducts and plays first violin. The choreography both entrances and sparkles. Yes, it’s a fairy tale, but quite extraordinary. And fun. One can’t help thinking that Lewis Carroll would have been pleased.

Peter Gordon is editor of the Asian Review of Books.