Ballett Zürich in Hong Kong
Ballett Zürich is opening the renowned Hong Kong Arts Festival this year!
From 23 – 25 February, our dancers are going to perform Christian Spuck’s «Anna Karenina» at the Grand Theatre of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, which has already left audiences in Oslo, Moscow, Seoul and Munich thrilled after its world premiere in Zurich.
Our tour diary invites everyone at home to join us on this tour to the vibrant metropole at the South China Sea! Starting from Monday, 19 February, you will find daily updates here, on Facebook and Instagram!
See you soon!
And here we are again, at the Zurich Airport! After Moscow, our next tour brings us to warmer climes. However, that also implicates a longer travel time. All in all, it will take us approx. 15 hours in order get to our final destination: Hong Kong!
There we will have the honor to perform at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre and open the 46th Hong Kong Arts Festival with Christian Spuck’s «Anna Karenina»! This is also why we are flying with Finnair, the official airline partner of the festival, and are stretching our legs in Helsinki first before we get on a long distance flight to Hong Kong!
Our journey of over 15 hours went smoothly. We only had a little distress in Helsinki. Once we passed the pass control, we were told that the boarding for our connection flight to Hong Kong has already begun. But the tension flew away as quick as it came, as soon as we arrived at the gate. As the flight was fully booked, boarding over 300 passengers took its time.
Nine hours later we landed in Hong Kong! And we finally say good bye to our winter jackets and coats – or at least for now. The temperature is at a pleasant 18 degrees Celsius. But along with the difference in temperature comes time difference. We’re now seven hours ahead! We’ll see how we cope with it tomorrow!
„So, how long did you sleep last night?“ That was probably the most asked question this morning. However, even though only a few people managed to get a good rest, the first run-through in the studio went smoothly. For this rehearsal, we welcomed two little boys from the Jean M . Wong School of Ballet, who will be starring as Anna Karenina’s son, for the first time. Barely anyone could resist the cuteness and suppress an „Awww!"
Unlike yesterday, a cold wind blew so that the air felt very nippy. However, that didn’t prevent our stage manager Felix Bierich and some of our dancers from discovering the city.
Thus, we took the ferry this afternoon to Hong Kong Island. In SoHo, we enjoy local sweets such as Egg Tarts, Pineapple Buns and Bubble Teas, before we go up to Man Mo Temple, one of the oldest temple in Hong Kong, by riding the world’s longest outdoor escalator. After some sightseeing, a little bit of shopping is due. Right next to the Man Mo Temple is Upper Lascar Street which is one of the best addresses in Hong Kong for antiques and souvenirs. On our way back we’re appeasing our steadily growing hunger at a small shop. At Little Bao’s, we enjoy „Pork Belly Baos“, „Szechuan Fried Chicken“ or „Sloppy Chan“, a vegetarian version. A taste adventure that not only fills your belly, but really caters to your taste buds! Feeling reinvigorated, we head back to the big city life and take the subway to Kowloon, where we enjoy the rest of the day.
And so our first whole day in Hong Kong comes to an end. Good night everyone!
Today, the accumulated lack of sleep from the last few nights becomes noticeable for the first time. After class and rehearsal this morning, some of our dancers went back to the hotel to get some rest in order to be back on track again for the first stage call tonight.
At around 5pm, our dancers arrive one by one at the theatre to get their make-up done. Our first stage call will be in costumes and make-up already, since RTHK (Radio Television Hong Kong) is here to cover our guest performance.
For tonight’s stage rehearsal, we literally need to put something warm on. The ventilation on stage as well as in the auditiorium means a bit too well for us. Therefore, we’re wearing our jackets and scarfs not only outside, but also inside the theatre. Let’s hope that the temperature in the auditorium reaches a normal level, once it is filled with the expected 1600 and plus guests!
But there was also another reason for goosebumps! Our pianist and ballet répétiteur Christophe Barwinek and mezzo-soprano Lin Shi performed utterly touching songs by Sergej Rachmaninov on stage. Lin Shi may be familiar to some of the readers. As a former member of the International Opera Studio, she was seen in various opera productions at the Zurich Opera House in the seasons 14/15 and 15/16.
After the stage call, we return to our warm bed again, so that we will all hopefully get some good rest! Tomorrow morning at 10.30am the final dress rehearsal takes place already! Wishing everyone a good night sleep!
Big day today! Not just for us, but also for the Hong Kong Arts Festival, as our performance is kicking off the 46th edition of the festival.
And the big day starts early in the morning. At already 7.30am, the breakfast room of our hotel is full with our staff – from technicians, to the dressers and dancers, everyone is already up, as we have a dress rehearsal with the second cast starting at 10.30am. However, our colleagues are not the only greeting us this morning: the sun is out for the first time! Waking up this early had also the benefit of seeing Hong Kong in a new light!
Unfortunately, there’s no time to enjoy the sunlight. As the theatre doesn’t open until 8.30, our dressers and make-up artists have one hour less time to get all our dancers ready. But there’s nothing that our heroes backstage couldn’t handle. They manage to get all dancers on stage right in time for the dress rehearsal.
We already have a small audience in the auditorium. Around 400 students as well as a few family members of some of our dancers, who were only travelling to Hong Kong for this reason, are watching the dress rehearsal. Everything goes as planned. After only minor corrections, our dancers leave for a short break, before it gets serious again tonight!
While it was a bit hectic before the dress rehearsal, the atmosphere before the show turns out to be quite calm. As if this was the deceitful calm before a big storm. But our best guess is that our dancers were able to get their hair and make-up done a bit earlier than in the morning.
At the same time in the foyer, there is an official reception for the opening of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, where our Ballet Director Christian Spuck, our Chief Operating Officer Medea Chiabotti, as well as the Chief of Financial Officer CFO Christian Berner were introduced to Tisa HO, the Executive Director of the Hong Kong Arts Festival.
Little by little, the visitors fill the auditorium with its capacity of over 1600 seats. And now, the show is finally starting – the sound of arriving trains is coming out of the speakers, the light fades and the curtain rises.
Within the next two and a half hours, our dancers do not only present Anna Karenina’s story together with mezzo-soprano Lin-Shi and our ballet répétiteur and pianist Christophe Barwinek, but also all their talent and deliver a powerful performance. The audience is thrilled and loudly cheers our dancers at the end. Among them is also Tisa Ho, the executive director of the Hong Kong Arts Festival. She joins us afterwards backstage in order to congratulate and thank us personally for the performance.
So, the first performance was a success and the 46th Hong Kong Arts Festival has officially opened! We already look forward to our next performance tomorrow afternoon with our second cast! Wishing everyone involved a good and relaxing night!
After the successful opening last night, we have another reason to celebrate today: We will see Christian Spuck’s story ballet for the first time with the cast starring Anna Khamzina as Anna Karenina, Alexander Jones as Graf Wronski and Manuel Renard as Alexei Karenin!
While the day starts at 1pm with class on stage for our dancers, ballet director Christian Spuck arrives half an hour earlier at the theatre. He’s giving a backstage tour that is part of the “Festival PLUS” activities which aim to enhance engagement between artists and audiences.
At 2.30pm, the curtain finally raises on the second performance. Our dancers also manage to wow the audience at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre this time – congratulations!
With two performances happening in one day, our dancers are kept quite busy. But also our ballet director Christian Spuck has barely time to rest. About ten minutes after the show, he’s already rushing to an interview and another ten minutes after the interview, he’s rushing to a Pre-performance Talk, where he’s speaking about his production. This time, it’s not only us who get a bit of the jitters, but also the organization of the Hong Kong Arts Festival. As the Pre-performance Talk is launched for the first time in this setting, they fear that not many people will show up. However, the opposite is the case and they soon have to provide more seating accommodations.
Now, we are only 30 minutes away from curtain call. The piano is played by our ballet répétiteurs live on stage. While Christophe Barwinek was performing pieces by Rachmaninov and accompanying the wonderful mezzo-soprano Lin Shi for the first two performances, it is now time for Luigi Largo to take over for the last two performances. Therefore, he will be seen in «Anna Karenina» for the first time tonight!
Even though, it is the second show for almost all dancers today, they manage to deliver such an incredibly powerful performance that really brought down the house! Thus, the second day of the 46th Hong Kong Arts Festival is also coming to a very successful end!
We must have lost our sense of time somewhere along the way from Helsinki to Hong Kong. Weekdays are mistaken for other weekdays and what happened yesterday feels like as if it has already happened a few days ago. At the same time, this week passed by so quickly! It is almost unbelievable that we already have to take the plane back home tonight!
However, not everyone is going home tonight: our technical staff is staying for another two nights in Hong Kong. Although, we feel a bit of jealousy, we must say, our colleagues really deserved it! They have been present at the theatre from early in the morning until late in the evening every day since Monday and ensured that everything from stage calls to performances is running smoothly. Even when the last curtain fell, they didn’t lose time and started to take the whole set apart. We wish them a great time discovering Hong Kong and a good rest!
After our last performance at the 46th Hong Kong Arts Festival, we’re drawing a very positive balance:
- The percentage of seats sold was at 95% upwards for all performances.
- The rate of injuries or illnesses was despite the overly motivated ventilation at 0%.
- All performances were able to satisfy the audience to a 100%!
Once the last pictures have been taken after the final performance, we had around 4 hours before our coach picked us up for the airport, leaving us with some time to enjoy Hong Kong’s buzzing city life one last time. We took a final stroll around Hong Kong, some of us went up to Victoria Peak for a last view, relaxed with a massage and enjoyed local dishes like dumplings and noodle soups.
At 9pm, it’s time to finally say goodbye to Hong Kong and to our colleagues at the Hong Kong Arts Festival, who took such good care of us – we couldn’t have asked for better support!
At the airport, we spend our last Hong Kong Dollars and get ready for the next 8094km of our way back. Around 11 hours later, we land on a maneuvering area covered in white snow. So, we already get a feeling in Helsinki for what’s expecting us in Zurich! But instead, Zurich welcomes us with blue sky and sunshine! Only the temperature remains Nordic. We were hoping that once we come back from our tour, spring would have already arrived. But no, it’s still winter and it’s even colder than when we left – it’s freezing!
In order to acclimate to the weather and the time zone and to recover from the busy schedule and our long trip back, our dancers are free on Monday and Tuesday. They need to be back on their feet again, as we have our first performances in Zurich again on Wednesday and Thursday evening! We can’t wait to perform «Nussknacker und Mausekönig» again for our audience at home!
See you there!
Our Anna Karenina production made it back safe and sound from Hong Kong! After the journey there, we had to learn the hard way that we cannot take this for granted…
The force majeure of Burglind and Friederike
Six weeks ahead of our first performance in Hong Kong, the whole production (set, lighting, costumes, make-up and props) was packed into three high-cube containers. These containers were transported to Basel, where a river barge was already waiting to ship them to Rotterdam. However, at the beginning of January, we recall a cyclone Burglind making headlines. The bad weather did not only prevent aircrafts from leaving the ground, but also our containers from leaving the port due to a sharp rise in water levels of the Rhine. But this didn’t worry us yet, as we already took precautions by planning with a time buffer. However, the real bad news was to hit us once we arrived in Rotterdam. Not only was our ship for the transoceanic journey delayed, but also, troughs of the storm Friederike stopped all loading activities at the port. Therefore, the estimated arrival date in Hong Kong was postponed by 14 days or in other words, when our guest performances would already have been over.
All nerves were put to the test. Together with our carrier and the festival management, we immediately started seeking new solutions and evaluating different possibilities in order to save the tour, as well as the opening of the 46th Hong Kong Arts Festival. After numerous phone calls between different continents and time zones, the decision was made: The containers would be shipped to Dubai and then transported to Hong Kong by air. An undertaking that would bear a new challenge in each step along the way for everyone involved. Due to the bad weather, thousands of containers were stranded at one of the biggest ports in the world. Therefore, we had to find our three containers and load them onto a new ship in no time. Once arrived in Dubai, the whole cargo had to be thoroughly inspected by the local customs. Also, for the continuing journey by air, the decoration had to be repacked, as the size of a container did not match the size of the aircraft. Even just a small complication would have been able to cause a chain reaction leading to an early ending of our guest performance. And so, a nerve racking waiting period began in Zurich as well as in Hong Kong.
We were about two weeks away from our first performance scheduled in Hong Kong when we finally received the first phone call that gave us hope within these turbulent days: all three containers had been found and were sent off to Dubai! In order to ensure a smooth process in Dubai, Peter Hänggli, our team leader of the stage, went to the UAE and worked closely with the carrier and the cargo airline. Overnight they managed to achieve what we had profoundly been hoping for. Our Anna Karenina was sitting in the aircraft bound to Hong Kong and was to arrive right in time.
A dramatic adventure came to an end and showed us that force majeure can also cause the best planning to totter. But at the same time, it also proved to us that we have an exceptional team of internal and external colleagues around us, whom we can rely on in crisis situations and overcome the hardest challenges with.
Our biggest thanks go to all colleagues of the Zurich Opera House, the Hong Kong Arts Festival and our carrier Panalpina, who saved our tour and brought us unforgettable moments in Hong Kong by working hand in hand. We hope for our upcoming tour to Tel Aviv that the story of Anna Karenina is ultimately the only thing that takes our breath away!
Ballett Zürich in Hongkong
A review of the guest performance at the Hong Kong Arts Festival