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

Hong Kong Tatler - - Hong Kong Ballet - Pho­tog­ra­phy KING FUNG

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.

ANNE WANG-LIU

LIANA YE­UNG

LEIGH TUNG-CHOU

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