The Hong Kong Arts Festival Asia Pacific Dance Platform IX was an evening that raised the frequently asked question about what kind of animal (or vegetable) contemporary dance is. This valuable platform is dedicated to challenging notions and preconceived ideas of dance, as well as presenting “innovative and cutting-edge contemporary dance development”. The selected artists gave the audience a double-bill with two very distinct approaches to, and products of, dance that were meant to “explore and redefine the boundaries and meanings of duet”.
Dual, Choreographer: Stephanie Lake; Dancers: Alisdair Macindoe, Sara Black Photo: Byron Perry
The evening opened with Dual by Stephanie Lake Company, choreographed by Artistic Director Stephanie Lake with lighting design and music composed by her frequent collaborator Robin Fox. Dual has been presented at festivals around the world to rave reviews. It is structured in three distinct parts – first a solo for male dancer, Alisdair Macindoe, who won the Helpmann Award for Best Male Dancer for his performance in this work, a second solo by Sara Black, also a Helpmann Award winner from an earlier production, and a third section that is the “interlocking of the previous solos”. Investigating what is sacrificed or alternatively enhanced, when two become one is a pertinent question for life and relationships. The two solos are distinct from each other in their dynamics and movement vocabulary, and establish two individuals on stage. Most regrettably, the solos are not unlike much of the work that saturates the world of contemporary dance these days, including some of Lake’s own such as Double Blind, which also featured Macindoe. His frenetic, electric energy driven by the pulsating score embodies the image of a mass that is both human and animal. The dancer appears more in harmony and control with subsequent languid phrases. Black’s solo, which begins on a different part of the stage, is intense and she displays tremendous virtuosity with her sinewy body. I was riveted watching this prodigious dance artist express a range of emotions, although her eyes remained remote throughout. With the dancers wearing different colored costumes in the last section, the two solos interlocked, changing the context and giving different meanings to phrases. It was an interplay between the two with flashbacks from whence they came. There were moments that were breathtaking but unfortunately, they did occur frequently enough to enable the dance to resonate with the audience on a visceral level.
Dolap, Choreographers: Mustafa Kaplan, Filiz Sizanli, Ömer Uysal, Dancers: Mustafa Kaplan, Filiz Sizanli. Photo: Isabelle Meister
Dolap, which means closet in Turkish, premiered in 2001 and was presented by the Turkish contemporary dance company Taldans. The work’s concept and direction was by Mustafa Kaplan, who together with Omer Uysal and Filiz Sizanli also choreographed it. What an artist might do with a refrigerator is a fascinating concept. In Dolap, upon placing a refrigerator at the center of the space, two dancers manipulate it like a pendulum, carefully turning it 360 degrees. They subsequently play with balance, mounting it one way and then the next, constantly moving it around the performance space. The dancers experiment with this inanimate object, controlling it with their heads, feet, hands, backs, and body-weight, giving it a life of its own. This makes the work seem like a trio. In the middle of the dance, the dancers make a production of cutting tape that holds the door – then it becomes a box, a coffin, or a closet – and the exploration continues. However, the work doesn’t go beyond this and the experimentation becomes repetitive and predictable. Although one was never sure which way the refrigerator would fall, there were no moments that made your heart leap into your mouth. While this research might have been fascinating for the performers, where no two performances are the same, 40 minutes of it is trying for audiences and has no impact.
Hong Kong Arts Festival’s Asia Pacific Platform IX was a brave effort to introduce different kinds of performances to the audience. Nevertheless, in a world where contemporary audiences are considerably smaller, this program might not encourage them to return.
was Dean of Dance, National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage, Malaysia for two decades. He is an award-winning choreographer, author, curator of international festivals, producer, and artistic director of ASK Dance Company, based in Malaysia. He now works at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
Asia Pacific Dance Platform IX Dual Choreographer: Stephanie Lake Dolap Concept & Direction: Mustafa Kaplan ; Choreographers: Mustafa Kaplan, Ömer Uysal, Filiz Sizanli Performance: 7 Mar 2017 20:15 Studio Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre