Special dance retrospective displays the development of modern dance in HK

By Huang Tingting Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/30 16:58:39

A scene from Willy Tsao's Sexing Three Millennia Photo: Courtesy of the Hong Kong City Contemporary Dance Company

Red-clad dancers on the stage move like crazy to the ever quickening, heartbeat-like background music. Eventually they collapse from exhaustion except for one who continues to dance as if her body were beyond her control.

This was a scene from Dominic Wong's Second Thoughts, one of the many dance routines performed by the Hong Kong City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC) to a full house as part of its Amidst the Wind special dance retrospective celebrating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China at the Beijing Tianqiao Performing Arts Center last Wednesday.

"Amazing!" exclaimed one man in the audience, clapping hard as he murmured to his companions about the dancers' skillful moves.

Also part of the 2017 Beijing Dance Festival, one of the country's largest annual modern dance events, the Amidst the Wind special consists of 13 excerpts from some of the CCDC's best programs choreographed by five renowned Hong Kong contemporary dance artists over the past two decades including Willy Tsao and Helen Lai.

From Tsao's symbolic Sexing Three Millennia (1998), which featuring unemotional dancers in camouflage tops and tutus, to Noel Pong's The Buying Game (2013), a Broadway-style drama depicting a group of happy shoppers, the show is inspired by modern city life as well as literature classics Dream of the Red Chamber by Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) novelist Cao Xueqin and Metamorphosis by Austrian writer Franz Kafka, making it a definite feast for the eyes and an exotic display of diverse styles.

Diverse styles

"Amidst the Wind consists of programs of different styles and showcases a diverse culture - and Hong Kong enjoys a diverse culture," said Willy Tsao, CCDC's founder and artist director of the Beijing Dance Festival, in his opening speech before the show.

Instead of deliberately picking programs to fit with the anniversary theme, CCDC decided to include programs that could best represent the development of Hong Kong modern dance since 1997, according to a press release from the troupe. Second Thoughts (2014) was one of those chosen.

"In Second Thoughts, I am trying to depict the world from a microscopic angle, with dancers playing the organs and blood vessels inside the human body," Wong, CCDC associate art director, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Different from Wong's surreal world and other excerpts that are of a more serious and somber nature, Noel Pong's works that were included in the show are hilarious and dramatic. 

"A challenge for dancers in Amidst the Wind is to transit in a very short time from one program to another that demands very different emotions," Pong told the Global Times. "As one of the co-directors, I try to make sure they have a smooth transition."

With the conclusion of the Beijing performance, the anniversary special is scheduled to tour to South Korea and Japan this October.

Dramatic changes

Attending the Beijing Dance Festival annually since its first session in 1998, the members of the CCDC have witnessed the evolution of mainland-Hong Kong cultural exchanges over the past two decades.

Pong said that great changes have taken place since the first time she came to Beijing with the CCDC in 1998.

"Roads are wider and theaters are grander - the urbanization taking place here is quite similar to that of Hong Kong," she noted.

Moreover, these changes have been a source of inspiration for Hong Kong's modern dancers.

"For me, Chinese symbols are the speed of the bullet train and the convenience brought by e-commerce platforms such as Taobao instead of traditional symbols like dragons and Peking Opera," Tsao told the Global Times in an interview in April ahead of the 20th anniversary celebration on July 1.

"Dancers are as passionate as always," Wong said, mentioning the large number of mainland dancers that have taken part in the master classes he has held at the Beijing Dance Festival over the years.

"Their dedication to the art of dance moves me," Wong noted.

Newspaper headline: ‘Amidst the Wind’

Posted in: DANCE

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