A CRACKER OF A CHRISTMAS
For ballet buffs Anne Wang-liu, Liana Yeung and Leigh Tung-chou, the holiday hasn’t truly arrived until the Sugar Plum Fairy dances her pas de deux. The co-chairs of the Hong Kong Ballet’s annual Nutcracker Christmas Benefit open up about their favourite
How does Christmas Day begin in your household? We start by letting the kids open their presents in the morning and then we have a large Christmas lunch. The day after Christmas, we fly to our home in Phuket.
What’s the best part of the Christmas feast? The truffle mashed potatoes— they’re my favourite. Other than that we eat the usual turkey, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, pasta salad, ham, roast chicken, cranberry sauce and mince pies.
Do you detox postchristmas? Yes—i try to detox by drinking Punch Detox juices for three days after Christmas. What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? A beautiful drawing of Christmas from my daughters.
Describe your fantasy Christmas Day. I would love to go ice skating at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
What’s your favourite ballet? The Nutcracker, without a doubt. It’s timeless and, when it comes to ballet, the classics are irreplaceable.
What makes this year’s performance of The Nutcracker so special? Deirdre Fu-tcheng, one of the Hong Kong Ballet Guild founders, will be the artistic coordinator of the benefit this year, which is very exciting. Principal dancer Zhang Siyuan, corps de ballet Natalie Ogonek and community outreach manager Vency Kwok will all help teach the children the choreography, and bring this show to life. The silent auction this year will feature an exclusive set of Barbie and Ken dolls, inspired by the reunion scene of the ballerina and the nutcracker at the snowy treetop with many different nations represented. We are also working with Mattel to produce 230 sets of customised ballet dancer Barbie dolls, which can be purchased for HK$500 each.
How do you get into the Christmas spirit? I love to decorate. I usually set up a corner where I put our Christmas-related books, decorations and the Advent calendar—instead of gifts and candies, it’s filled with activities that we do with the kids.
What’s the star dish at your Christmas feast? My bread-and-butter pudding is always popular—the trick is to use very stale country loaf, and pre-soak the bread with homemade custard and real vanilla beans.
What is the best gift you’ve ever received on Christmas? I was baptised on Christmas Day 14 years ago; my husband’s grandmother and late grandfather gave me a Bible that day. That was a very special gift for me.
What’s your favourite ballet? Swan Lake—the music, the choreography and the love story are just so magical. In 2016, we will be staging the Royal Swedish Ballet’s version; it’s the one with the evil black swan.
Did you ever do ballet? I took classes when I was young. I remember practicing the pirouette by holding a tray with both hands—took me quite a while to get the perfect turn!
What do you love most about the Nutcracker Benefit? Definitely the mini performance of The Nutcracker. It’s even more fun to watch now that my children take part. The benefit is one of our key fundraising activities. This year, the benefit feels extra-special because we have relaunched the Hong Kong Ballet with a new visual identity, which embraces our redefined vision and mission. We want to cultivate appreciation in the younger generation. We also want to broaden the appeal— ballet shouldn’t be seen as elite.
Run us through your typical Christmas celebrations. On Christmas Eve, the family meets for dinner; we have the usual roast turkey, ham and curry chicken with all the trimmings. Then we sing carols at the piano and try to get all the children into a group photo, which is not an easy feat. On Christmas Day, we take boats out to Lamma Island for a hike, a game of football on the beach and a roast pigeon lunch. All three generations go, and my cousins and I reminisce. We’ve seen Lamma develop from a sleepy fishing village into a bustling town over the past 35 years. On Boxing Day, the whole family goes to Hong Kong Disneyland for two nights. We are approximately 60 people and need a conference coordinator.
What was your most memorable Christmas? The first Christmas we spent in Hong Kong in 1981—we were still living in New York at the time and I remember flying into Kai Tak, staying at the Furama Hotel, eating at Cat Street and seeing the Christmas lights in Central. I remember being so excited to go to Jimmy’s Kitchen for the baked Alaska and going to Ocean Park to see the dolphin show.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? Finding out I was pregnant with twins. And a beautiful string of South Sea pearls from my husband. What’s special about this year’s Nutcracker Benefit? This year, we will dedicate part of the proceeds raised to the Dancers’ Sponsorship Fund. Our dancers are the soul of the company, and we are committed to providing the best possible environment and conditions to develop their careers. The fund allows for regular physiotherapy sessions, new pointe shoes, and artistic exchanges to further their education and training.