Review- Dream of the Past: Ancient Chinese Court Dances- Hong Kong Dance Company


By: Matthew Gillespie


An evocative journey into Ancient Chinese Culture. Dream of the Past: Ancient Chinese Court Dances explores the ceremonies and dances that were performed in and around the imperial courts during it’s Golden age.  


The Hong Kong Dance Company, a local company that aims to promote Chinese classical dance, worked in collaboration with the Beijing Dance Academy in order to re-create eleven dances that were primarily from the Han and Tang Dynasties.  They have worked with some of the great dance historians in order to choreograph and style these pieces.  Much of the inspiration and knowledge for these dances was taken from painted bricks, clay figurines and traditions passed down.


Many of the dances were taken from a larger dance drama entitled, Dancing Girl of the Bronze Sparrow Pavilion; however each of them were able to stand on their own.  Each piece was established in mood and style by distinctive dress, music and lighting.


The lighting, throughout, was masterful.  Billy Tang truly established and maintained the feel of each moment.  


While the first half was primarily adorned in reds and golds, the second half used a wider range of colors, styles and moods.  But, as an overall artistic design, they cleverly maintained touches of red and gold throughout.  There were several different costume designers are to be applauded.  


Most striking throughout were the headdresses.  There were different head dressings for each piece - long wigs and golden crowns to small feathers.  Most striking were the 1.5 meter tall feather head pieces during ‘Chu-style Waist Dancing.’  A difficult task, the dancers were able to maintain their lines even though their height was doubled.  


Another stand out feature of the evening were the use of drums.  For several pieces, they used small drums that didn’t use to drum in a traditional manner, instead, they danced on them.  Somewhat like clogging or soft shoe, they were able maintain their controlled movements added another dimension to these pieces.


What is most striking about Chinese dance is the control that they maintain throughout.  While there are moments of more free style and playful dance, as in ‘Love Song with Drums’, the larger pieces are by-in-large very grounded and controlled.  They move fluidly and in synch with one another to create overall pictures.  Much like a really good marching band, they move in and out of formations without you really realizing how they got there.  The Hong Kong Dance Company accomplishes this with practiced mastery.  


The audience favorite was ‘Small Victory Dance’ where three warrior-type women celebrated great battle victories during the Tang Dynasty.  They attacked the stage with great flourish, which was, again, enhanced by the costume and lighting design and a great score.


If you have an appreciation for Chinese culture or even want to gain some insight into Chinese history and the beauty exists in its heritage, this is an evening you will truly enjoy. If you are not able to catch this one, take the time to see Hong Kong Dance Company when you can. 


Dream of the Past:  Ancient Chinese Court Dances is playing through the 28th. For more information, click here.


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