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[ENG]Dreaming - A Year Ago This Month

Photo Credit : Cheung Chi-wai

Photo Credit : Cheung Chi-wai

In Galaxy Dreamer, choreographer Max Lee Kin-wai, presents a complex, powerful, and humanistic exploration of the marginalized – a central figure, a street sleeper portrayed by Leung Kim-fung, one of life’s ‘lost’ people, and two office men, played by Lai Tak-wai and Li Long-hin, who might be seen as his foil, but could also be viewed as alternate incarnations or manifestations of the ‘lost’ man. Lee distils these characters’ stories as a metaphor to assess the predicament of contemporary Hong Kong – and by extension the state of modern urban life everywhere. It is a mature work, sharply focused and tightly structured, simply and directly stated, and superbly danced, with a compelling set and costumes by Ameiliana Cheung and inventive video components by Jackal Hon.

The work opens with Leung slouched amidst the plastic bags, paper cartons, and other detritus that are familiar parts of the urban landscape – the belongings of the homeless that they cart with them in their endless wanderings. The upstage left and downstage right corners are also each set up with a simple table and a chair. To a recording of the kind of announcements heard on public mass transit, traffic sounds, sirens, and other city noise, the two office men enter the space. Dressed in suits, they pace, crisscrossing back and forth across the stage outlining a rigid grid that restricts their movements to its narrow pathway. As a lyrical piece of music begins to play, the street sleeper stirs. Wearing grease-stained jacket, dirt-smeared pants, with his face obscured by long, unkempt, matted hair, he begins a dance of powerful reaching movements and beautiful, gentle, poetic, gestural phrases full of wonder and reflection that are interrupted by spasmodic tics, repetitive beating gestures, stamping, incoherence.

The dance is structured as a series of episodes in which sections featuring the office men alternate with those danced by the street sleeper. At times they all dance together, when this occurs, most often, the movement of the soloist contrasts the duo. And there is no acknowledgement by any of the other. It is as if they inhabit two separate planes of existence. Sometimes the office men retire to the two corners of the stage, sitting, miming eating, placing the chairs onto the tables and crouching beneath, as if to sleep – evoking the cage homes and cramped subdivided flats common to Hong Kong and other big cities where real estate is a game for the rich off limits to the working man.

Throughout the piece, Lee develops his characters. Rather than stereotypes, he reveals them as fully dimensional. And during the course of the piece both the tics and the reflective movements of the street sleeper find echoes in the occasional gestures of the office men – as they sit at their tables or slip into moments of reverie while traversing paths that orbit him. Never is the connection between them so evident as in one particularly powerful dream-like scene in which video is projected both on the cyclorama and the scrim as well as on the stage floor creating an environment where the men seem almost adrift in space. While the office men retain their unison movements, it veers from its usual automaton-like rigidity becoming at times more fluid, erratic, off-center, enigmatic. Moving between them – off the grid – the street sleeper’s gestures of hope and wonder offset the cautionary quality of his tics and spasms.

Lee’s work is thoughtful, insightful, well-considered, and well-made. While examining a theme that touches on the core of modern man’s discontent, and during a time that is roiled by restlessness, Lee balances despair with possibility.

Photo Credit : Cheung Chi-wai

======== Tom Brown is a former dancer and the retired Associate Dean of Dance, Head of Modern Dance, and Dean of Graduate Education at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. He is the editor of dance journal/hk. Performance: Galaxy Dreamer

Date: 30 October 2015 Time: 8pm Venue: Kwai Tsing Black Box Theatre

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