Review- 365 Ways of Doing and Undoing Orientalism- CCDC

  27-6-15

By: Chloe Chia

 

Postulated by Edward Said, the prominent literary critic of post-colonialism, Orientalism is a European invention of the colonizers to define the East as its contrasting image. As the most recurring images of Orientalism are often associated with notions as primitive, romantic, exotic, mysterious, and subservient, to undo these colonial stereotypes is to embark on a presentation of an alternate picture of the self. CCDC simply pulled this off with brilliant witticism.

 

Against a backdrop of blazing fire, a man donning a piece of cloth around his body sets off into slow graceful movements under the music that recollects images of a native tribe living in the primal woods. What immediately comes to heed is his deliberate accentuation of a male body’s curves and lines in a presentation of soft, flexible, sensitive and delicate moves. He draws our consciousness into the normal way of seeing a male body. Merely five minutes into the production, CCDC is already insinuating gender consciousness in the mind of the audience. 

 

One of the 365 ways the company do and undo orientalism is by playing with costumes. In Act One, female ballet dancers put on a Chinese cheongsam-like (traditional Chinese women dress) top to match with their Western ballerina tutu—a statement of East and West hybridity. In another act, a male dancer handsomely waves a sword in his martialart moves while he dons a changshan (male version of cheongsam) with high openings on both sides. (The male outfit is traditionally paired with long pants to get a full cover, while female cheongsam is more commonly seen with high-cut openings without the pants for a subtle reveal of legs, exposing his bare legs.) Concurrently, a female dancer puts on a Peking opera headdress with a filament typical for male costumes, for a brisk moment of “masculine” choreography. The costumes with a gender-bending twist are worth an eye for attention. 

 

The production aptly plays with gender stereotypes; it also takes a stance on the battle between the sexes. In the second act under the theme of “Summer",  the fight of man and woman is played out in a passionate bed scene. Adding to the complexity of gender issues is the political touch of revolutionary movement. It seems more like a gender revolution as woman eventually defeats man, thus overturning the century-old archetypal relationship of male-dominance and female-inferiority in Asian society.

 

Act Two ends with the concluding season of the year, "Winter", where the dancers display all the props they have used. The display of the props are well done and a reflective display of all things Chineseness; from the dragon dance, paper fan, paper umbrella, sword to musical instruments. As the dancers retreat from the stage, the audience is left alone to confront these things that were thought to be the core of what define Chineseness. Central to the stage is the clever use of three burning joss stick in an urn, at once symbolizing the embrace of these tools like one paying respect to his/her ancestors. Or perhaps suggesting the death of these tools; should be left behind in the past like dead ancestors cannot/should not be revived? 

 

As my companion points out, 365 is parallel to the four seasons of a year. Drawing from this idea, the resistance against orientalism is a non-stop, continuous struggle. Despite its position as an international modern city, Hong Kong is still trying hard to fend off various stereotypes. For one, the success of this local production has strongly revoked the term “cultural desert” so unfairly given to this multi-faceted city. In the post-1997 era, Hong Kong’s search for its local cultural identity and resistance against foreign perspectives is still relevantly an all-time ongoing struggle. 

 

“365 Ways of Doing and Undoing Orientalism” could not only be seen as Hong Kong’s postcolonial statement of response towards its colonial past, it also poses a response to the contemporary climate. Premiering 13 years ago in 2002, the production gains resonance and was highly acclaimed in the US, Australia and Italy. Choreographed by CCDC’s founder/artistic director, Willy Tsao, with associate choreographer, Xing Liang, this production is professionally executed with its group of 16 dancers. With original music by Peter Suart, it is a brilliantly provoking feast for the eye, ears and the mind.  

 

Fun, quirky, modern, playful, elegant, resourceful, smart, creative, satirical, wisecracking...... There is an endless list of words to describe this multi-faceted production. Watch it to have your say in adding to this list. With a limited run of only two shows on the 26th and 27th of June, grab your tickets today and have no regrets! Definitely a defining piece to help you rethink your cultural identity.  

 

365 Ways of Doing and Undoing Orientalism is playing through June 27th. For more information, click here.

 

 


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Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 3.0


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