"Eureka!" is purportedly the exclamation ancient Greek scholar Archimedes shouted when he discovered that the volume of his submerged body in a bath was equal to the water it displaced. The Ancient Greek word, which means, “I have found (it)”, is also the title of CCDC’s latest production performed from 18 to 20 September 2015 at Hong Kong Cultural Centre Studio Theatre. It was intriguing to see the dance discoveries of the three choreographers featured in the program.
The first discovery, La Ronde, a play written by Arthur Schnitzler in 1897, is the inspiration behind Victor Fung’s dance, If These Walls Could Talk. Adapted from the structure of the play, the dance is composed of a series of duets, each portraying an encounter of a couple. In the 100-year-old play the encounters are all sexual, but Fung tones down the dance somewhat to portray mostly abusive or harassing relationships. Like the play, the tone of the dance is made even more cynical with every character appearing twice, each time with a different partner. The choreographer attempts to lighten the dance with sleek and lighthearted movements, but his efforts fall short, and there is an awkwardness to the work, it’s neither cynical nor comical, but somewhere in between. Also borrowed from the play is the ‘round’ form. The dancers, each with props, form a circle on the stage. As the dance unfolds, each dancer takes a turn to perform when, with the rotation of the circle, each moves to the front of the stage. Each dancer performs in two dances, one with the dancer from the previous dance and the second with the next dancer in the circle. It is an interesting idea, but the format needs further intellectual or visual consideration to make it work, without these it becomes a formalistic device. When the dancers are not involved in a duet they remain in the background not adding to the dance but restricting the audience’s imagination.
Using identical boxes in the shape of a right trapezium, Lai Tak-wai explores the idea of individual versus group in his dance Overwhelming. Besides creating some intriguing visual images, the choreography also bestows the boxes with various meanings throughout the dance. A single box, placed upside down in the opening scene, forms an unstable platform, an uncertainty onto which a dancer, Dominic Wong, keeps trying in different ways to gain a foothold, to sit, to stand, to squat, or to lie, but inevitably, he drops from the box, slides off it, or even rolls down from it. The situation changes when nine other dancers come on stage each pulling a box behind like a wheeled suitcase. Wong becomes part of the group, moving with his box like the other dancers. At first the dancers move and place the boxes erratically but as the scene continues, the boxes become aligned. This scene ends as the dancers move the boxes into a circle, a formation requiring the accurate collaboration of all, but also signaling absolute conformity. In the second part of the dance, the dancers use the boxes collectively, like Lego blocks to build two different sets for the next two scenes, each set embodies a side of the opposing ideas the choreographer explores – individual and group. The first set is a boat-like structure, a metaphor of adventure or aspiration that Noel Pong, as a dreamer, embraces after much struggling. It was transformed into a pathway that finally leads her away. In opposition to the individuality depicted in this scene, in the second dance, a house-like structure, a metaphor of home, family, and conformity, presents its antithesis. As the dance proceeds, the house is split down the center, and the movements, which are a series of intertwining short duets of several couples, turn confrontational and aggressive. The dancers retrieve the boxes in the last section and perform a succession of dance sequences with a recurrent theme of one of the dancers leaving the group formation and going off to dance on their own. In the end, the dancers lay all the boxes on the stage to form a big arrow shape, but as the others follow the arrow and leave the stage, one dancer is left behind. He picks up a box from the arrow, and walks toward the opposite direction.
Following the mournful and soul-searching Overwhelming, Bruce Wong’s How to Become..., with its vitality and energy, provides a refreshing counterbalance. The dance develops from two main movement ideas: expressive gestures used in speaking and martial arts. These are not new ideas, but Wong develops the two somewhat overused movement ideas into an impressive work that succeeds where most of the other attempts to explore these ideas fail. The opening scene exemplifies Wong’s finesse. A group of dancers appear randomly on stage, all speaking intensely but mutely to no one, moving haphazardly with heads, arms, hands, and fingers variously gesticulating with exaggerated and expressive movements. Among these seemingly chaotic but richly textured movements, once in awhile, some fleeting moments of order arise -- a dancer turns and is apparently talking to another; two dancers facing different directions open their arms with palms up at the same time; several dancers, here and there, raise their arms in synchronicity, with index fingers pointing to the sky, seemingly making a point. And then, facing different directions, the dancers perform a unison, coordinated sequence of arm and hand gestures with a clarity and coherence that eventually animates the whole body. A duet with Dominic Wong and Kelvin Mak is also masterfully choreographed and performed. The two dancers do most of the dance low to the floor with their bodies and limbs interweaving in tightly knit movements that are quick and intensive. The power, the intensity, the precision, the urgency, and even the thrill resonate martial arts combat, but there is not a single solitary bit of Kungfu (or pseudo Kungfu), and the two bodies barely touch. It is a very convincing dance combat scene in the sense that it is pure dance, not an imitation of martial arts in dance, which is commonly the case with other work.
The three works in Eureka are all derived from distinctive ideas, and some of the dances may be more successful than others, but that is not important. What we need in Hong Kong now are new talents exploring new ideas in creating dance, and in this sense Eureka is surely a successful production.
Has over ten years’ experience in writing dance reviews in both Chinese and English with work published in dance journal/hk. He studied design in university and has no dance training background.
Date: Friday, 18 September 2015
Venue: Studio Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre