圓桌交流之概況 Roundtable Discussion(照片由國際演藝評論家協會(香港分會)提供 Photo provided by International Association of Theatre Critics (Hong Kong))
莫：當時有一個組織叫VSA International，原名為Very Special Arts International，而其中的香港成員為香港展能藝術會（ADAHK）。我在ADAHK就任時接觸了很多不同能力的人，並認識到提倡DanceAbility的美國舞蹈家Alito Alessi，有機會邀請他到香港舉辦工作坊。我離開ADAHK後，邀請他任教另一個工作坊，並與當時的學員到不同地方演出，包括灣仔修頓球場、葵芳邨羅馬廣場，而該系列演出當時亦榮獲香港舞蹈聯盟頒發的香港舞蹈年獎。最近的香港國際共融舞蹈節亦有邀請他在網上舉辦工作坊及討論會。
C+與不同能力人士進行舞動工作坊 C+ conducts dance workshops with people of different abilities(照片由鄭慧君提供 Photo provided by Scarlette Cheng)
Mimi與不同能力人士進行舞蹈工作坊 Ｍimi conducts dance workshops with people of different abilities／照片由MimiLOPADF提供 Photo provided by MimiLOPADF
C+：我認為這種社會關懷並非像當義工這種關懷，而是出自一種對自己生活地方的關心。雖然我是社工，但我不認為這是社會福利工作，而更像是莫先生所說，是文化權利的問題。為甚麼有某些身體特質就不能跳舞？事實上可以透過合適的方法令這些人一同起舞。對我而言，文化權利才是著眼點，人人都有參與藝術的權利。我在大埔藝術中心排練室的鏡上貼了一句話：「Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful」。每個人都有屬於自己美麗的地方，由自身的經驗、背景、特質造就了獨一無二的個體。一個作品值得欣賞的地方，除了舞蹈技巧外，亦關乎作品與觀眾的連繫，而每個人都應該有自己的準則，不必依賴社會所賦予的框架去評價作品。
莫：不論舞蹈或藝術都有不同功能，既能作為娛樂，亦能作為教育或賦權，這些都可以獲得資助。社福機構提交藝術活動計劃書時均會強調建立自信、建立良好溝通等社會性功能，事實上藝術的確能夠達到此效果。現時也有愈來愈多人發現藝術與健康息息相關，舞蹈不單是娛樂，更能夠宣揚健康理念並帶來健康。譬如由香港賽馬會資助、香港演藝學院舞蹈學院的「觸動」舞蹈計劃，計劃服務對象為柏金遜症患者，計劃同樣注重藝術層面，把柏金遜症患者帶到藝術場地舉辦工作坊，以此灌輸藝術到他們生命之中。順帶一提：我們提到殘疾人士及他們的福祉時，會以「Nothing about us without us」（沒有我們的參與，不要替我們做決定）為原則，需要與他們一同規劃、構思相關活動。以「觸動」舞蹈計劃的宣傳為例，當中主要是策劃人Anna（陳頌瑛）以及其他推動者分享感受，卻沒有參加活動的柏金遜症患者分享。這是我們需要改善的地方。
香港愈來愈多人關心舞蹈與健康的議題，共融舞蹈節的最後也有「Dance in Health」的探討環節。若果能夠令共融團體意識到他們不單是在推動共融，同時是在社會宣揚及推廣舞蹈改善健康，則能發展出更多可能性。
Roundtable Discussion: Introduction and Development of Inclusive Dance in Hong Kong
Moderator: Tomas Tse (Tse)
Guests: Scarlette Cheng (C+), Mimi Lo (Mimi), Augustine Mok (Mok)
Transcipt: dance journal/hk Editorial Team
Translator: Laura Chan
Tse: Whenever we mention inclusive dance, the name DanceAbility comes to mind. As far as I know, DanceAbility was introduced to Hong Kong by Mr Mok. Could you share with us the reason behind this?
Mok: At that time there was an organisation called VSA International, formerly known as Very Special Arts International, and Arts with the Disabled Association Hong Kong (ADAHK) was its Hong Kong member. When I was working in ADAHK I met a lot of capable people, including Alito Alessi, an American dancer who was an advocate for DanceAbility. I took the opportunity to invite him to hold workshops in Hong Kong. After I left ADAHK, I invited him to teach another workshop and perform with our students in different venues, including Southorn Playground in Wan Chai and Roman Square in Kwai Fong Estate. The dance series received the Hong Kong Dance Award presented by the Hong Kong Dance Alliance. Alessi was also invited to conduct online workshops and seminars at the recent Hong Kong International Inclusive Dance Festival.
Tse: Mimi and C+, what was it like when you first encountered DanceAbility? How did you apply your skills and how did it influence your work?
Mimi: DanceAbility provided me with a framework to understand the specific needs of different groups of people, and at the same time I discovered common characteristics among different groups that enabled them to dance together. In this sense, specific dance styles — be it ballet, Latin dance, or contact improvisation — did not really matter. DanceAbility may have involved dance skills initially, but eventually it became more like a concept catering to different individuals. Another concept I frequently applied was contact improvisation, and sometimes I combined both concepts or leaned towards one of them, as both allowed me to understand the abilities of different groups and what worked best for them.
C+: I was a jazz dancer before joining DanceAbility. Jazz dance has exams with very strict requirements, so DanceAbility changed the way I thought of dance. Unlike the conventional definition of dance, DanceAbility advocated the inclusion of every individual and allowed them to interpret movements in their own ways. For instance, if someone performed a certain move, others could interpret it based on their own body characteristics or preferences. Such emphasis on diversity recognised all bodies, experiences, structures and choices, so that everyone could enjoy dancing and empower their bodies through art.
Tse: What both of you have shared highlights a fundamental question: What actually is inclusive dance? Mr Mok, as the organiser of the First Hong Kong International Inclusive Dance Festival, what did you want to convey to the audience in Hong Kong?
Mok: Initially our focus was on inclusiveness for people with disabilities. However, we later collaborated with BEYOND Bollywood, whose work revolved around ethnic inclusion, and as a result the festival featured both themes. Some criticised the lack of LGBTQ+ inclusion, suggesting that future festivals should consider more types of inclusion. As C+ mentioned, we should embrace diversity in all forms, including sexual orientation, body characteristics, race, and language. Our idea of inclusivity was about equality and harmony, and giving greater importance to the value of diversity.
C+: We use the term "inclusive" dance because art and dance are given certain frameworks in society. For example, how dancing necessarily requires certain physical abilities and experiences, so that it is not accessible to everyone. I started learning dance in my twenties, and most of my classmates were teenagers. They were surprised when they found out I was much older than them, reflecting how strong the limited mindset is. Inclusive dance removes such restrictions on age and physical condition, and I hope that in the future dance and art can be accessible to everyone, without the need to explicitly mention inclusivity. That would be what inclusion truly means.
Tse: This brings two questions to my mind: How can inclusive dance possess artistic qualities rather than being mere entertainment? Apart from the lack of awareness, what are the other challenges in promoting inclusive dance in Hong Kong? Some audiences may still perceive inclusive dance as a form of social work which lacks artistic value.
Mok: The main issue lies in the fact that the majority of people have not embraced diversity, and that they fail to understand that culture is a right. How our city engages with culture, including its production, creation, participation, and enjoyment, should not be determined by a select few. A well-known dance company in Wales has organised workshops for individuals with severe disabilities, even for those confined to bed, so that they could dance from their beds. Their dancers have conducted workshops in Hong Kong. The key lies in how we define dance and artistic qualities.
Mimi: Inclusive dance provides the necessary space for participants to interact with one another. In fact, I have never considered myself as an inclusive dance practitioner or a social worker. I simply taught dance to people from different backgrounds and adapted my approach to their needs. Similarly, in terms of artistic value, it was important to understand what students could do and what truly represented them, and then perform art that belonged to their particular group, instead of imposing certain artistic qualities on them.
Tse: From what you are saying I feel that inclusive dance allows many individuals to be seen and empowered. Would you agree that inclusive dance is not only an art form but also a form of social service? How would you balance or reconcile these issues?
Mok: In my opinion, we should speak up whenever someone encounters inequality. Everyone has the right to culture and the ability to make a difference, as within each of us lies a "gold mine" of creativity. Be it a dance teacher or a drama teacher, that person can create a stage where everyone can shine. Inclusive dance or art simply gathers people of different characteristics to create and enjoy art. It also highlights art forms pioneered by individuals with disabilities, such as sign language performances or Visual Vernacular developed by the deaf, displaying their unique aesthetics. Blind people can also create art that may be understood through the sense of touch.
Mimi: Rather than calling it social service, I believe it is more about being influenced by those around us. I have many LGBTQ+ friends, and recently two of them mentioned that they got weird looks when they participated in Latin dance classes. That made me pay more attention to this group and become more concerned about their needs. A few days ago, I participated in a roundtable discussion at the QueerTango Festival in Germany, where many instructors talked about creating safe and comfortable spaces for these groups. However, they also hoped to do away with stereotypes and get mainstream audiences involved. We should reflect on whether it is social service we want or if we should seek to create a two-way street.
C+: I believe this kind of social service is not like volunteering; it stems from a concern for the community you live in. Although I am a social worker, I did not treat it as social work but more like an issue of cultural rights, as Mr Mok has mentioned. Why shouldn’t people with certain physical characteristics dance? In fact, these individuals can indeed dance together if appropriate methods are applied. Everyone has the right to participate in art. I put up a quote on the mirror in the rehearsal room at the Tai Po Arts Centre which said, "Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful”. Everyone has their own unique beauty, shaped by their experiences, backgrounds, and characteristics. What makes a performance worth appreciating goes beyond dance skills; it is about the connection between the work and the audience, and everyone should have their own criteria to evaluate the work, not just accept the framework imposed by society.
Mok: Earlier we mentioned how a lot of people viewed inclusive dance as an activity related to social welfare. When I was working at ADAHK, I was responsible for inclusive arts activities, and I also organised drama under the Asian People's Theatre Festival Society. During that time, the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC) invited a renowned Singaporean theatre practitioner to watch and review productions by different theatre groups in Hong Kong. After he watched the performance of Macau Story 1, 2, 3 by the Society in Macau, he commented that inclusive arts only belong to the field of social welfare, which I disagreed with. Inclusive arts created by individuals with different abilities can also be of high artistic value.
Tse: Speaking of HKADC, do you think funding organisations could help effectively with promoting inclusive arts?
Mok: Dance or art can serve different purposes, such as entertainment, education, or empowerment, and all of them are eligible for funding. When social welfare organisations have submitted proposals for art activities, they have often emphasised the social benefits of art, such as the improvement of self-confidence and communication. Nowadays people are increasingly aware of the correlation between art and health; dancing could be used to promote positive messages regarding health and wellness. For example, the Dance Well project, organised by the School of Dance at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club, focused on holding art workshops for patients with Parkinson's disease, bringing art into their lives. By the way, whenever we talk about people with disabilities and their well-being, we adhere to the principle of "Nothing about us without us," which means involving them in decisions on the planning and conception of activities for them. Taking Dance Well as an example, its promotion featured sharing from its coordinator Anna Chan and other advocates, but none from the participating patients with Parkinson’s disease. This is an area which should be improved.
C+: In some groups it is rare to have instructors with disabilities, such as in schools for children with physical disabilities. If there is an instructor who is a wheelchair user, they might have a better understanding of the physical attributes of the children. I cover three areas of work: I mentioned the participation part earlier, and another aspect is art appreciation. In recent years, we have incorporated audio description, sign language interpretation, and theatre visual interpretation in our community cultural ambassador activities. Inclusive art is not only about participation, and I hope that audiences will be able to appreciate these aspects as well, for example how visually impaired audiences can understand a dance production through audio description. The third aspect is to involve people with different abilities in training, so that they can become our advocates. For example, DanceAbility offers a 30-hour training programme to participants with different abilities, and they are invited to become part of the teaching staff. This allows people with disabilities to not only participate in and appreciate art but also become advocates for inclusive art.
第一屆國際共融舞蹈節演出 Hong Kong International Inclusive Dance Festival Performance（照片由社匿文化發展中心提供 Photo provided by CCDF )
Tse: Finally, what are your thoughts on the future development of inclusive dance in Hong Kong? We have studied a lot of experiences from abroad. How can we localise these experiences effectively?
Mimi: DanceAbility has brought forward many artists who have promoted inclusive dance in Hong Kong, increasing the exposure of inclusive dance. However, there are also many people like me who had already been teaching dance in special schools, or we are experienced in teaching dance to people with disabilities, before encountering DanceAbility. It would be fruitful for the inclusive dance community or even the entire dance community if there was a platform to share, discuss, learn, and consolidate ideas relevant to inclusive dance. When I participated in the dance classes of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, we constantly observed and evaluated our peers’ teaching methods. This is not common in Hong Kong.
Mok: When I was organising the Inclusive Dance Festival, I felt that an inclusive dance community had somehow, unconsciously, been formed. The community consists of performing groups, artists promoting inclusive dance, and local and foreign instructors, and we have managed to introduce performances from overseas and connect with inclusive art groups through online workshops. However, maintaining such a community is not easy; it requires a considerable amount of resources and careful consideration of what we hope to achieve with this community.
People are increasingly interested in dance and wellness in Hong Kong, and the Festival also included a discussion session on Dance in Health. If we can make inclusive groups realise that they are not only promoting inclusivity but also dance to improve health and wellness in society, more possibilities could be developed.
C+: I would like to emphasise that inclusivity means no-one is excluded. While some inclusive dance programmes have targeted specific groups, I hope to see more programmes that are open to everyone.
Mimi: One concern regarding inclusive dance programmes is venues. Currently Hong Kong lacks dance venues with facilities which accommodate all types of people. If overseas art festivals state that everyone is welcome to attend, they will list accessibility issues to the venue. For example if there are stairs, they will mention that assistance is available for people with disabilities.
Tse: Thank you all for taking part in the roundtable today. The upcoming edition of dance journal/hk will focus on inclusive dance, and the First Hong Kong International Inclusive Dance Festival has recently taken place. I hope that this will spark more discussion and awareness of this issue.
Date and Time of Discussion: 1 August 2023 3:00-4:30 pm