Review- Jockey Club Contemporary Dance Series- Hong Kong Arts Festival


By: Chloe Chia


Every year, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Contemporary Dance Series is filled with outstanding innovative local dance pieces. Marching into the 5th year is no exception. Featuring 11 works by 12 choreographers, each piece is distinctively different from one another in every direction, offering a rich and vibrant performance series. The dance series is separated into 3 programmes, and I had the privilege of watching the second programme, featuring 4 dancers in 3 pieces of dance.  


My favourite of which, is the third piece, “Pied-à-terre”, self-choreographed, danced and played by mainland-born Chinese dancer, Yang Hao. The reason I use ‘played’ is because this piece has a very strong theatrical acting element, yet did not fall short on dance aesthetics. The piece starts with the dancer drawing a square on the floor, consequently ‘trapping’ himself in the box. While I have always felt that constraints and boundaries are there to spark and highlight greater creativity, Yang’s dance within the 2x2m square has literally affirmed that. His moves were accented and smooth, syncopated and fluid.  


In terms of performance medium, the piece has a rich and spectacular exploration of performing arts possibilities. Firstly, he uses a polyphonic poem with two incognito female voices speaking over each other, that seems to be commenting or telling a story of the lone birdman trapped in the box. Secondly, he assumes different roles, putting up a multifarious actor’s hat to add dramatic plot to the performance. Not many contemporary dancers would talk or sing live during their performances, but Yang did both, and did them well. He is as much an actor as a dancer. On top of that, Yang also made an excellent use of video installation, as he interviewed then danced to his singing “self” on the TV screen, which later evolves into an entertaining karaoke session with a live music video.  


The message of this piece cannot be less subtle. Yang not only self-directed his acting, self-choreographed his dancing, but also self-explained his motives of creation. The part where he invites his ‘self’ out for an interview about the piece had literally put a smile on the audience’ face. Inspired by the postmodernist American choreographer, Trisha Brown, he explained how he combined Jessica Rizzo’s poem and his dance according to the concept of accumulation. Pied-à-terre means a secondary home in French. Basing on that theme, he explores questions of cultural identity, gender identity, sexual identity, urban identity and national identity, issues that are very specific to the ground of Hong Kong and yet are also universal values that are being fought for on a global scale.   


Between being understood and misunderstood, this piece chooses to bridge the communication gap and seek to communicate with the audience. It is whimsical and entertaining at one point, contemplative and meaningful on the other. 


The first two pieces were duet dance. “Mapping”, choreographed and danced by Tracy Wong and Mao Wei, is a piece that makes use of the concept of google map positioning and bearing, symbolized by red balloons that were moved by faceless people across the dance floor. From getting lost to positioning and repositioning, from hidden behind a “comfort mask” to a final naked confrontation, this piece has played well on the overall mood and lighting rather than conveying a deep-touching message. The other piece, “wŏ mén”, is choreographed by Cai Ying and co-danced with Sarah Xiao. The Mandarin romanized pronunciation can be translated as we or us. While its message is quite arbitrary, I like its choice of wacky music that pairs with some funky stage props and costumes that reminds me of a Nancy Sinatra style at one point before it turns to an oddball. 


I do not deny that each piece is unique and meaningful by its own, but my feeling is that the first half of the programme slightly falls short on a deeper connection with the audience. They were beautifully choreographed with good choice of music, lighting and props, certainly with lots of dramatic theatrical elements, yet the messages did not manage to imprint as well as intended. Having said that, I absolutely adore the third choreography, and am keen to find out more from the other two programmes.  


The Contemporary Dance Series is playing through March 13th. For more information, click here.


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dance, review, hongkong

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  • Alice
    14 March 2016

    Thank you Chloe Chia !

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