The West Kowloon Cultural District building site may look chaotic, a jumble of holes in the ground, piles of rebar, scaffold-covered stunted raw concrete forms, half completed flyovers, pedestrian walkways ending mid-air, but the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) has been busy with a lot more than just managing construction. With the opening of its first venue still years away, and the dance venue not scheduled for completion until even further in the future, WKCDA activities have nonetheless intensified.
Apart from plentiful events in other art forms, Anna CY Chan, Head of Artistic Development (Dance), Performing Arts Department, WKCDA has spearheaded a number of initiatives that are indicative of the role that WKCDA sees itself fulfilling. According to Louis Yu, Performing Arts Executive Director of WKCDA, this includes developing work locally, commissioning work both locally and with international partners, as well as presenting local and international programs; in other words, WKCDA as developer, commissioner, producer, and presenter. In dance, in the last few months this ambitious agenda has included programs as diverse as Sharing Session on Overseas Training/Research Program for Leaders from Local Arts Groups on Future Arts Development in Hong Kong; a series of Freespace Fests and Freespace Happenings that include dance and other art forms; Dance Video Lab; Screendance Workshop; Writing Choreographic Process Workshop; and Workshop on Writing Movement, Text and Dance.
Coming up in December WKCDA will present the renowned and revered Japanese-American dance artist Eiko Otake, of the duo Eiko and Koma in her most recent work A Body in Places performed at two different locales in Hong Kong. Otake will also conduct Delicious Movement Workshop while here. The number and broad range of these WKDCA dance events directed toward software development are an indication of the sharp focus and enormous effort Chan has devoted to preparing the ground for a successful launch of the WKCDA hardware, the long awaited theatres. I ran into her at CCDC Dance Centre the other day as she was escorting a large delegation of arts presenters that she met while attending the October Performing Arts Market in Seoul (PAMS). They were in Hong Kong at WKCDA’s invitation to meet dozens of independent dance artists who are interested in being presented abroad.
要說陳最具野心的嘗試，莫過於把世界知名編舞家Wayne McGregor（WMcG）帶到香港。WMcG是英國皇家芭蕾舞團駐團編舞、蘭登舞蹈團（Random Dance Company）的藝術總監。他這次來港並非製作演出，而是與本地的舞蹈團體、導師及學生交流，並出席公開論壇。他也與《舞蹈手札》談論他的工作，其中的一些見解，或許會為香港舞者帶來共鳴。
Perhaps none of Chan’s initiatives to date have been as ambitious as bringing one of the world’s most sought after choreographers to Hong Kong, Wayne McGregor, Resident Choreographer of the Royal Ballet and Artistic Director of Random Dance Company. McGregor was here not to present work, but to work with local dance companies, instructors, and students and present a free public forum. While here, he talked about his work with us. Below are some of his comments that may resonate with Hong Kong dancers.
Tom Brown (TB): Could you talk about the highlights and challenges of your work with Random Dance Company and the Royal Ballet?
WMcG：我在年輕時已建立自已的舞團，自覺有需要去做。這有點是自己年少氣傲，因為我現才在明白，有很多後來接觸到的藝術家，像是梅西．簡寧漢 (Merce Cunningham)，其實在當年我也應該會想與之合作。90年代初，英國政府真正地幫助年輕藝術家創作自己的作品，那是十分難得的事。他們建立了資助架構，來支持年輕編舞者自立門戶，發展自己的願景。UK Arts這個支持年輕未來藝術家的架構，本身就是一個亮點。我認為這也是這裡希望做到的事情之一。
WMcG: I started my company young, just because I felt a need to do it. It felt like a bit of youthful arrogance in a way because now I realize all of the people I would have wanted to work with and subsequently met, people like Merce [Cunningham] whom I would have loved to work with. In those days in the early 1990s, the UK was really supporting young artists to make their own work, which was really quite rare. They were finding funding structures to be able to support young choreographers to form their own companies and have their own vision. That was a highlight itself, the structure of UK Arts to champion these young artists-in-making and I think it is part of the aspiration here [in Hong Kong].
I never imagined making ballets. It wasn’t on my list of things to do, and it was only because I started to work with some ballet dancers who had seen my work and wanted to try it. One of the first ballerinas I worked with was an amazing dancer, Viviana Durante, who was one of our greatest ballerinas. I made a piece for her and that started to generate traction in ballet. And it just worked. There was something interesting about [the] synergy that the Royal Ballet liked and the audiences liked.
TB: There is a difference between the Random Dance work and the Royal Ballet work, could you talk about that.
WMcG：他們之間的分別在於舞者的身體所受的訓練不同。我一直都對舞者身體的歷史感興趣，這也是我成立這樣一個多元文化舞團的原因之一。我的想法是，如果一個團體裏存在著多樣性的人，就有很大機會得到多元化的作品，亦啟發我作更多創新的嘗試。我們常說馬林斯基劇院、莫斯科大劇院芭蕾舞團、巴黎歌劇團芭蕾舞團和皇家芭蕾舞蹈團，但這些大型舞團其實都是由個體組成，當中有些人的好奇心較重；有些人對其舞團作品有熱誠，有些不然；有些人對巴蘭欽 (George Balanchine) 的共鳴多於威廉‧科西 (Billy Forsythe)，有些則是對兩者皆有感覺；有些人則有很強的適應能力。
WMcG: I think they are different because the bodies have been trained differently. What I’m always interested in is what is the history of a body. So one of the reasons I have such a multi-cultural company is because I’m interested in what their physical histories are. I think [if] you have an amazing diversity in the group; you’ve got an amazing chance for diversity in the work. That for me leads to more innovative practice. I think we tend to say the Mariinsky, the Bolshoi, the Paris Opera, the Royal Ballet. But all of those large organizations are made up of individuals. Some of these individuals are more curious than others. Some of them have a feeling for the work, some of them don’t. Some of them have more of a feeling for Balanchine than they do for Forsythe. Some of them have a feeling for both. Some of them are super-versatile.
TB: Choreographers here don’t feel that they have enough time to make the kind of work that they want to.
WMcG：我們永遠沒有足夠的時間。我頗認同艾倫・科普蘭 (Aaron Copland) 曾說過的這句名言：「你不會完成一個作品，你放棄它。」當我思考自己的編舞過程時，我視之為一個連續體，不會視之為一連串的盡頭。我並沒有試圖編出「最好」的舞蹈。但要做到這樣，你需要有很多創作的機會。這是重點所在。對編舞者，尤其是年輕的編舞者來說，一年不斷只編一個作品，或每次創作之間都無所事事，都是不足夠的。他們需要的是每天都留在舞蹈室中。非常幸運，我可以花大部分時間在舞室；由一個委約作品，到一個實驗性計劃，再到一些教學工作，你可以不斷地與不同的身體合作，並從中學習。這是非常、非常的重要。對我而言，重點並不在可以得到多少委約工作，而是你能爭取到多少機會留在舞室，盡量與不同的身體合作。在這過程中，舞蹈編排便會浮現；有些會是有趣的，有些會比較乏味。我發現到，我那些得不到舞評家歡心的作品，是我學得最多的作品，在其中，我感到自己做了一連串可以把我帶到其他境界的决定。
WMcG: Well we never have enough time. Aaron Copland said this brilliant thing around, you don’t finish a piece, you abandon it. I partly think that. When I’m thinking about my own choreographic process I think of it as a continuum. I don’t think of it as a series of dead ends. I don’t think I’m trying to make the best piece possible. But to do that, you have to have opportunities to make a lot. And this is what’s really important. It’s not enough for choreographers, and especially for young choreographers, to have one piece a year where they work on, or one thing and then they don’t do anything in between. They need to be in the studio every day. I’m lucky enough to be able to be in the studio most of the time. I go from one commission, to an experimental project, to a bit of teaching, so you’re working with bodies all of the time and you’re learning. And it’s very, very important. For me, it’s not about how many commissions you get, it’s about how do you get yourself the opportunities to be in a studio working with bodies as much as you can. And from that, choreography emerges; some will be interesting, some will be less interesting. I noticed that the things that I learned most in, the pieces usually that the critics don’t like so much, actually those are the times that I’ve really felt like I’ve made a series of decisions that have taken me somewhere else.
TB: How much time do you have to stage a work on the Royal Ballet?
WMcG: 視情況而定，通常大概五個星期，每天大概三小時。但是，皇家芭蕾舞團的首席舞者納塔莉婭‧奧西波娃 (Natalia Osipova)就不可能給我每天三個小時的排練時間。事實上，排舞的時間安排牽涉大量的實際和物流的考慮，我們正努力試圖改善。我將會與年近90歲的皮埃爾・布萊 (Pierre Boulez) 和哈龍‧米爾札 (Haroon Mirza) 一同創作一個新作，在巴黎歌劇上演。在那裡，我會有一群舞者，可以於任何時間排練，這在巴黎很平常。我要在五星期的排練中，準備一齣半小時的作品，但我會有全部舞者，所有時間。若我需要他們每天排練六小時的話，他們就會排練上六小時。
WMcG: It depends; it’s usually about five weeks for about three hours a day. But then, you wouldn’t get Natalia Osipova for three hours a day. So it depends, there’s a whole kind of practical and logistical issue around making work. We’re trying to change though, right. We’re working hard at it. I’m about to go to make a new piece at the Paris Opera with Pierre Boulez, who’s going to be 90, and Haroon Mirza. There, I’ve got a group of dancers, and this is common in Paris, where you get the dancers the whole time. So I can work for, in this case it’s for five weeks, it’s a half-hour piece, but I have all of the dancers, all of the time. So if I wanted them for 6 hours at a time, I could get them for 6 hours at a time.
TB: You came from University dance originally, and then you studied at the Limón School. I see the weight in your work, both in your modern dance choreography and in the ballet company, which is sometimes difficult, or sometimes not part of ballet choreography’s attention. How do you get that?
WMcG: First, what’s really important is ballet is not a fixed form. Ballet is a language in evolution, even though some people don’t want it, a lot of critics don’t want it to be like that. The fact is, it is changing. If you look at the repertory of the Mariinsky, the Paris Opera, the Royal Ballet, if you look at what ballet is now to them, there’s a disjunction between that and actually what people think it should be. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that it’s really important in classical ballet that language, that instrumentation of the body is done in a really rigorous way. That’s why they are a ballet company. That demands a very particular type of training and that demands a very particular type of body. But it’s not to say that those bodies can’t do other things. And that’s what we are working on at the Royal Ballet is extending and understanding what the context of ballet is in a wider sense. So we’re using sports science, for example, to be able to work better at stamina and fitness, and use models, which come from sports science to be able to jump better, to optimize performance. Not so it’s like a sport, but actually it stops injury, it allows this instrument to extend its range. And part of that extension of range is in its relationship to weight, in its relationship to plié.
TB: You’ve said you want the audiences to come, and you want them to come back. When you go to view dance, what makes you go to the dance, what makes you come back? What things compel you?
WMcG：嗯，首先，我是好一些人的擁躉。做擁躉很重要；這樣，我便不會錯過簡寧漢舞團、威廉‧科西、林懷民和川原三郎的演出。某類具代表性的藝術家我是絕不會錯過的。我不會錯過伍斯特劇團(Wooster Group) ，當中有些作品頗奇特。我不會錯過羅伯特．利柏殊(Robert Lepage)。實在有很多種類的人我是不會錯過的。被 Clement Crisp在金融時報劣評的作品，我很多時都會去看，那可能是個令人感興趣的人。我亦嘗試看很多年輕人的作品，實驗性的，不只是在大劇院正式舞台上演的。我喜歡去英國地方當代舞蹈中心（the Place），以及一些真實的、沒有修飾的作品發生的地方。我喜歡去有人真的做自己創作的地方。這說似容易，但其實是很難做到。如果你自覺為藝術家，無論付出甚麼代價也要實現自己的願景，做一些你覺得不能妥協的事，這會令我感到興奮。那怕是很概念性的作品，像杰宏貝爾 (Jérôme Bel) 或其他相似的作品，又或者是更具玩味的作品。只要我能夠感覺到那份投入、熱情和推動力，我便不會介意。
WMcG: Well, I’m a fan of some people, that’s the first thing, it’s always important to be a fan, so I wouldn’t ever miss the Cunningham Company, I wouldn’t miss Billy Forsythe, I wouldn’t miss Lin Hwai Min, I wouldn’t miss somebody like Saburo Teshigawara. There are certain kinds of iconic artists I would never miss. I wouldn’t miss the Wooster Group, some quite extraordinary. I wouldn’t miss Robert Lepage. So there’s a whole range of people that I wouldn’t miss. If Clement Crisp writes a bad review about someone in the Financial Times, I’d pretty much always go out and see that as someone who might be interesting. I really try and see a lot of young work, in really experimental situations, not only in big lyric stages. I like to go to the Place, I like to go to places where actually the real, the kind of the raw work is happening. I like where you really feel that somebody is really doing their own thing. That’s kind of an easy thing to say, but it’s actually a really hard thing to do. When you feel like an artist, at whatever cost, is going to do their vision, something that you feel is uncompromising, I get very excited about that. And I don’t mind that it’s really conceptual like Jérôme Bel or something like that, or if it’s much more playful. I don’t mind as long as you feel that that kind of commitment and passion and drive is there.
What gets me back, these would be my personal preferences, things to do with a really inventive physical language where you think the body is behaving differently. I love that. I remember the first time I saw Forsythe and I sat with friends and I was very fidgety and my friend say, “Oh God, you really hated that” and I said, “No, no, I really loved it”. I started to give up, because [it was] just so brilliantly fresh and inspiring. And then I realized the next day, I didn’t want to give up, but I did want to make work of that quality. So I think the aspiration of quality is really important. I don’t like in the theatre, even if you’re in The Place or someplace small, sloppiness, the craft-making being really poor, poor lighting, dancers under-rehearsed, all those things that you’ve absolutely got control over, even as a young choreographer. It’s nothing to do with money. It’s to do with your eye and your aspiration for quality, and I think that’s something that would make me watch an artist over and over, their aspiration for quality.
During the interview, McGregor talked extensively about his research and work with cognitive scientists and sports science in investigating how we move; how movement that we sometimes think of as instinctual, free, and improvisatory, may be actually habitual; how to find new ways to move; and how to open up new avenues for movement research. In Hong Kong McGregor worked with elite dancers from the Hong Kong Dance Company and the Hong Kong Ballet while members of his creative team gave workshops for students at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. He introduced ideas that he and his team have drawn from their research that help dancers develop new ways to think kinesthetically - to stretch their creativity and extend their abilities. The dancers showed the fruit of their work at the Public Forum. Responding to a series of simple cues - developing a dot to a line, and the line to a plane with different parts of the body; outlining shapes in two dimensions; responding to a color, McGregor led the dancers through a face-paced workout. He also threw different movements at the dancers, demonstrating them in rapid succession and had the dancers first replicate them, then manipulate them using repetition, fragmentation, partnering and other devices. After an hour or so, a dance emerged, as he said, “a brand new dance for Hong Kong”, co-authored by Hong Kong dancers with the brilliant McGregor leading them, giving them the chance to really step out and think big. Thinking big is something we’ll all need to do if we want WKCDA to succeed, to be truly representative of Hong Kong and to show off the creativity of Hong Kong Artists. McGregor shared with the dancers some of the things he’s discovered during his journey to becoming a world-renowned choreographer. It’s now our dancers turn to take the lead.
The full interview, together with its transcript, please click here