喬楊頒獎予麥卓鴻。Qiao Yang presents the Outstanding Performance by a Male Dancer award to Kelvin Mak.
攝 Photo: Mark Lam
“Hong Kong dancers’ bodies can’t compare to dancers from China”. The remark sparked Kelvin Mak’s determination to sharpen his body skills to prove that there were exceptional dancers in Hong Kong. Receiving the Outstanding Performance by a Male Dancer at the 19th Hong Kong Dance Awards was a fitting result for the 23-year-old’s endeavors. At the ceremony, he was presented the award by two-time Hong Kong Dance Award recipient, Qiao Yang, whom Mak calls ‘godmother’ for her care and guidance. In an interview with them, the two talk about their chemistry while dancing together, their lives, and most importantly, their passion and perseverance in dancing.
A dancer’s only asset is his or her own body. "
麥卓鴻於城市當代舞蹈團《回初》中的演出，編舞：阮日廣 Kelvin Mak in Mother I am Sorry, CCDC, Choreography: Nguyen Ngoc Anh.攝 Photo: 黃狄文 Dominic Wong
野馬與伯樂 Mustang and Horse Whisperer
Qiao Yang and Kelvin Mak’s relationship began with mutual admiration for each other. Around three years ago, Qiao met Mak when he joined CCDC. Because of her height, her dancing is considered bold. Therefore, in duets, she needs a strong male dancer like Mak as a partner. She describes Mak as a hefty guy with big bones, very reassuring in a partner. Once, when she was about to be caught by Mak after a leap, and flip her body, the leap failed and she nearly crashed hard onto the ground. Mak used his own body to support her so that he landed before her. Qiao landed on Mak’s body without getting hurt. Qiao has been dancing for 40 years and has rarely met a partner as reliable as Mak. This gave her confidence to try more new movements. During Mak’s three-year stay with the company, they were always paired together. They were even partners in group dances. The mutual understanding between these two formidable dancers was the reason Qiao felt secure dancing with Mak. It also resulted in a bond that made them like godmother and godson.
Qiao Yang in Tales of Two Cities, CCDC, Choreography: Helen Lai. 攝Photo: 陳德昌Ringo Chan
Mak considers Qiao his guide and an outstanding dancer. Even in her fifties, she knows how to maintain her body, which enables her to dance as strongly as younger dancers. More importantly, because he was the youngest member of CCDC throughout his three-year stay, he’d always been respectful of other dancers, and his colleagues took extra care of him. Qiao was the oldest member of the Company, yet she never acted like a ‘big sister’ to others. She never demanded respect from the young ones. Regardless of his age or experience, Qiao interacted and shared with Mak, teaching him many things. Because of Qiao, Mak made significant improvement over the three years. In getting through different difficulties, in dancing, in living, even in spirituality, he had Qiao’s care, patience, and understanding. Qiao added that, maybe because Mak was young, he could be reckless in rehearsals and performances. She described him being like a mustang, Mak had a good body and skills, but sometimes he tried too hard. He needed a hand, so he would know how to continue his dance career.
《孤寂》 Soledad; 編舞 Choregrapher: 黎海寧 Helen Lai;
舞者 Dancers: (前 Front) 喬楊 Qiao Yang, (後 Back) 麥卓鴻 Kelvin Mak;
相片由城市當代舞蹈團提供 Photo provided by City Contemporary Dance Company
好勝的契母子 Ambitious Godmother and Godson
‘Mustang’, the simile Qiao used to describe Mak, could describe a similar mindset of many exceptional dancers, referring not to a competitive attitude, but to the high demands they place on themselves, and to their passionate aesthetics. For sure, this godmother and godson were no exception. Qiao believes she is a very direct person. She doesn’t intend to compete, but still has a strong point of view on dancing. Her focus is on modern dance, and this made her different from practitioners of ballet or Chinese dance. She put great importance on technical and artistic excellence and worked till she reached her own limits. Sometimes, she was so intense that she would hurt herself. She knew that as a dancer, the most important thing she should work on was to protect her body, to take care of her own body and health. It was also a way to persevere in dance. She has had only three serious injuries in her long dance life. Yet, she recovered from all three after a day of rest. She loves dancing too much that she dares not to get hurt. With her strong will, her body could endure minor injuries so that she could continue dancing on stage.
Mak thought that his ambition had its origins in the remark quoted at the beginning of this article, a put-down of Hong Kong dancers’ bodies. Because of it, he worked very hard on basic principles. He went to other classes after school and he did not spend much time on composition or other homework. He was considered a bad student in school. His focus on training his body also limited the time he had to mingle with fellow students or listen to his teachers. However, those practices, together with the strong body he was born with, and his martial art training with his father at an early age, gave his dancing body a stronger foundation than other dancers. He continued his hard work after entering CCDC and made Qiao, the oldest and most hardworking dancer, his role model.
麥卓鴻（上）於《拼途》演出。Kelvin Mak (up) performing in Travelogue.
攝Photo: 張志偉 Cheung Chi-wai
Most successful dancers are the earliest to arrive at the studio. The godmother and the godson had an interesting routine. Because both took the MTR to CCDC via Tiu Keng Leng Station, the two met at the station every day and went back to CCDC together – half an hour earlier than the official starting hour. They took the ride together, warmed-up, and prepared for work. To Qiao, a dancer’s only asset is his or her own body. Therefore, apart from skills training, it is also important to manage one’s lifestyle. Getting up early and preparing before work is the professional approach to dancing. Qiao wanted to pass that message to her godson, and she delivered it by forcing Mak to go to work early together with her every morning. It is fundamental for a dancer to manage lifestyle well.
最美好的時光 Golden Times
對於在舞團內最年輕舞者，舞團內的競爭會否令麥有很大壓力？麥說舞團因為人多，自然存在不同的想法，磨擦或爭執也少不免。儘管如此， 比較以前讀書或現在作為自由身舞者的生活，舞團的三年時光是他感到最溫暖的日子。當中除了喬楊的提攜及其他前輩的關心和包容，加上舞團很照顧舞者的生活，令他無後顧之憂地跳舞。相反，未進舞團時的日子，或初入舞團的幾個月，確實過得很苦。例如他獨來獨往埋頭練功的風格令他與同學和老師關係不太友好，甚至小小年紀的他考入舞團亦遭其他人誹議，認為他是靠和喬楊相熟才得以提拔……種種他人不友善的目光一直令他感到壓力。以前在學校時遇上壓力只有他孤身面對，可幸是進了舞團後，有喬楊的鼓勵，也有如黃振邦這些前輩的支持，令他不再一個人默默的撐下去。喬楊在旁聽着，便說麥是憑著自己的努力及天份，在加入舞團的首次演出《逆． 轉》表現出自己的專業，之後才慢慢讓其他人信服他的成就，當然舞蹈年獎的提名及今次得獎，也是一個肯定。
As the youngest member of CCDC, would competition from other dancers place great pressure on Mak? To Mak, a large group of people naturally means a variety of points of view; clashes and conflict are inevitable. Yet, compared to his school years or his life now as a freelance dancer, the three years he spent at CCDC were the warmest he’d had. Qiao and other senior dancers were caring and tolerant and CCDC took care of the dancers’ lives. He could dance without worries. The time before he entered CCDC and the first few months there were hard. For example, he used to practice in solitude, and this made him seem not-so-friendly with teachers and fellow dancers. Some even thought Mak was made a member at such a young age because he befriended Qiao. Unfriendly attitudes were distressing to him. Yet, in his school years, he faced everything by himself. After entering CCDC, encouragement from Qiao and support from senior dancers such as Wong Chun Pong helped him on his way. Hearing this, Qiao commented that Mak’s efforts and talent were what led to his success. He displayed professionalism in It’s My Turn, his first work with CCDC. This persuaded people to acknowledge his achievement. The Hong Kong Dance Awards nominations and award were also an endorsement of his work.
With her strong will, her body could endure minor injuries so that she could continue dancing on stage."
Kelvin Mak (top right) and Qiao Yang (front) in It’s My Turn - The Voice Inside; Choreography: Lam Po.
攝 Photo: 張志偉Cheung Chi-wai
麥卓鴻與喬楊 Kelvin Mak and Qiao Yang
圖片由麥卓鴻提供 Photo provided by Kelvin Mak
Apart from those in the dance circle, Mak's family also put pressure on him. In the beginning, Mak’s family strongly opposed his dancing ambition and wanted him to become a policeman. It was distressing for him. His mother was so unsupportive that she even cut-up his costumes behind his back. His family’s lack of support only added to the pressure he felt from those outside. Luckily, Qiao’s motherly support gave Mak the confidence to continue dancing. Qiao recalled phoning Mak’s mother to invite her to attend her son’s performance and witness his hard work. Mak’s mother rejected the invitation until his third performance, Happy Birthday?. His mother discovered her son’s charisma on stage and began to accept that her son was a dancer. The night Mak received the Hong Kong Dance Award, Qiao sat next to Mak’s mother. She could see tears of joy streaming down her cheeks. Compared to winning the award, his mother’s joy was more important to Mak.
Qiao and Mak worked together seamlessly for three years. As Qiao describes it, Mak had been the one male dancer that was a kindred spirit with her. Getting ready early to dance with him had been the best time of her dancing life. It was also a very enjoyable experience for him. The most remarkable moment was when he was rehearsing for Second Thought, he was stressed out by family issues and dancing. During rehearsal, he suddenly leaned on Qiao and wailed. He said, for many years he had not been able to let go and cry. Only when he was in CCDC and in front of Qiao could he feel at ease like a child in a warm place.
麥卓鴻與喬楊 Kelvin Mak & Qiao Yang; 攝Photo: 陳德昌Ringo Chan
The Mustang acquired a sense of stability while retaining his passion. With both qualities, he took off, with elegant steps of his own."
After spending three years with CCDC, Mak decided to leave. Qiao said she still feels lonely when she passes Tiu King Ling Station alone. Yet she knew that Mak was leaving to discover the world and she knew it was good for him. Mak also thanked Willy Tsao. He was nervous about telling Tsao that he was leaving. But when he did, Tsao said he could see Mak’s determination in his eyes and he knew he could not make him stay; he did not want to either. In that moment, he understood that Tsao was not somebody who only considered the benefits for CCDC. He cared about Mak’s personal development. Today, after leaving the Company, Mak needs to arrange his own schedule and hustle for his own career. He will never forget CCDC’s support. He won the award because of CCDC. It was also the Company where he met his dance godmother, who gave him the courage to face the pressures to come later in life.
To the Mustang, godmother was his Horse Whisperer. After fine-tuning, the Mustang acquired a sense of stability while retaining his passion. With both qualities, he took off, with elegant steps of his own.
肥力 Felix Chan
is an independent curator in performing arts, an art critic, and illustrator.