First Soloist, Hannah Bateman, tells us about the tour to Hong Kong from a dancer’s perspective…
So off to Hong Kong we go!
We’ve never finished a touring season abroad, when we have done overseas tours before they have been at the beginning of a season. So after a touring stretch from February till now with a total of six ballets within that time, we were all feeling the end of season blues but the excitement of a trip abroad filled us with some much needed energy.
I chose to do a mad dash drive down to my sister’s house on Monday night after a final run through at West Park in the day as my stomach prefers not to travel by coach! But the rest of the Company headed off, guide books in hand, at 12 noon on Tuesday. It was going to be a long journey as the arrival time meant we were due in to Hong Kong on Wednesday at 15.30. I met my fellow travellers at Heathrow at about 16.45 and so it really began.
I hate group check-ins, but they are a big part of the experience so you just have to sit back and relinquish control (not a strong point of mine!) After check in, the big wait and for me especially the big temptation! I really don’t need any more perfume, make-up, etc just because it is discounted, stay away. This time however I was really pushed to my limit as there is a Mulberry shop at terminal 3, lucky my credit card is wrapped in cling film. It really is just for emergencies!!!
We arrived in good time and even though the flight was very long and uncomfortable you are restored with a temporary burst of enthusiasm as you ride from the airport to the hotel.
Hong Kong is a strange metropolitan jungle, a mix of Japan and New York on the sea front. It is so over-developed, perhaps we were never meant to adopt this island as a business hub but somehow someone has squished a load of high-rise everything on to it.
A quick story from the plane
The main aim of a long haul flight is to try and stop the swelling! I have had long haul flights before where my feet have swollen so much that I cannot get my pointe shoes on the next day, so every dancer adopts their own way of handling this. Kenny purchased some rather flashy state of the art tights by Skins, compression wear and this worked out really well for him, I had flight socks (I won’t bother next time!) Some drink loads of water before the flight and take Paracetamol. Georgina was determined to find somewhere to lie down, good luck to her I thought! Well, half way through the flight, it was like everyone everywhere was asleep and as I looked around with green envy I realised Georgina wasn’t in her seat. Great, I thought, I can go and find her and we can trade magazines as planned and have a chat and a cup of tea by the fire exit. I looked around the plane three times! She was nowhere to be seen. I had horrid thoughts of her being stolen like in ‘Flight Plan’.
Where was she? Lori, who she was sat on Georgina’s row was squished on her seat, the third of their line was fast asleep in a labour-like pose. One leg resting on the back of the seat and the other resting on the food trays! As Lori woke I dashed to her and in a frantic whisper asked, “Have you seen Georgie? I can’t find her anywhere!”
At that exact moment a head popped up between the food trays and Ben’s right leg and a sleepy voice said, “that was great a got 3 good hours sleep.” Georgina had slipped under the trays and the three chairs and had made herself a pretty good make shift bed with plane blanket and pillow. Swelling averted! Well done Georgie!
We attempted to stay awake for as long as possible on Wednesday to get on Hong Kong time so we all went off to explore our new city and most were in bed by 10pm.
Our first day in the theatre, a morning of sight-seeing, late class at 17.30 and the first tech.
The humidity is a killer; we drank loads of water and walked very slowly. Note to self, don’t bother moisturising in the morning as you just end up sweating it out and, quite frankly, it becomes a waste of money (there are air conditioned walk-ways but we haven’t found them yet!)
We looked around a couple of shopping centres, the Botanical Gardens, Zoo and we managed to stop for lunch inside the IFC building at Pret-A-Manger of all places.
By the time we made it up the steep winding hill to the Gardens we were greeted by a small shop where we quickly purchased water and Christie & I purchased a very natty fan each! We wanted to get out there and see what Hong Kong has to offer, but I was still feeling the effects of the flight and the thought of class and a tech is in the back of my mind.
Class was with Dan, and he was very kind to us as we slowly worked out all our lumps and bumps. The tech was with Ayana and Jeremy’s cast and went very smoothly indeed. The crew here seem to be fab and with our great crew, they all make a very slick team.
The theatre is huge and very well kept. Georgina and I have a lovely dressing room together and had a chuckle over the fact that on every light switch and door handle it tells you, in a laminated sticker, just how many times a day it has and will be disinfected. Good to know!!!
Found a great place for a quick dinner after the tech and then to bed, still not quite on Hong Kong time.
I had a look round the Cultural Centre and the hype for the show is great; the shows are nearly 100% sold and we are headlining the festival out here so fingers crossed we can impress the Hong Kong audience. A good tech and a good first show, a couple of bumps in places, but nothing the audience would notice (I hope).
Pippa and David lead the Company and I must say I always watch the first time Wendy flys, it’s magical. I sneaked a look at the audience through a gap in the wing and the first row was nearly all little children, every one of their beautiful faces lit up with excitement. They really love this show wherever we take it in the world.
Our techie’s really are fab, as are the Hong Kong crew, it’s all going rather well and audience response was great especially when asked, “Do you believe in fairies?” Well I am glad to report the people of Hong Kong certainly do!
Saturday, double-show day.
15.30 and 19.30. Emergency rehearsal today for Ben as he is on today for Peter in place of Jeremy as he is really very unwell. (First time to China, it has happened to us all.) Jeremy’s Dad lives in Hong Kong so he is able to take care of him, which is just what you need when you are so far from home.
Get well soon Jez!
Ben did really well as did Ayana, who’s parents came over from Japan to see her dance.
David and Pippa again in the evening and another great and very smooth show, apparent from a rebellious young boy who shouted “NOOOOOOOO!” to the famous do you believe question – much to the audience’s hilarity. David handled it very well and Tinkerbell made a full recovery!
After the show straight back to the hotel for a movie and then bed. Boring but needed, mind you today I felt myself again, definitely fully on Hong Kong time now!
Sunday, double duty again!
11.30 and 15.30 shows this time. Wow, did it feel early to be in for class at 9.30. Oh well on with the show. The buzz of the audience was excellent all day and well worth the early morning wake up call.
This is mainly a festival for families and outside the theatre there have been mini-shows by local children on an open air stage, so passers-by can grab a seat and be entertained in the Hong Kong heat.
In between the shows and from my window near the dressing rooms I have seen some Chinese opera, ballroom and Latin American dancing kids, sing-a-long sessions with a very enthusiastic young Asian man and also a homage to Michael Jackson and some bizarre hip hop. All very good fun and totally entertaining from my air conditioned viewing gallery!
After the shows were done I got to catch up with my cousin who lives and works in Hong Kong and we took in the sights from the peak! This is where you get a fantastic view over Hong Kong Island and you can shop yet more in the centre perched on the top of this huge peak. We had a lovely dinner and a slightly uncomfortable journey back down the twisty alp-like road to the bottom.
The star ferry back to TST and then very much time for bed. Packing in the morning and then off to Macau for us all!