採訪 Interview: 謝嘉豪 Tse Kar Ho; 拍攝、剪接 Video Shooting and editing: Ifan yu; 翻譯 Translation: Raven Ching 嗚謝城市當代舞蹈團提供相片及錄影 Special Thanks to City Contemporary Dance Company for providing photos and videos.
The hillside of Shatin Pass Road in Wong Tai Sin is a lively place that is also the cradle of modern dance in Hong Kong. Dominic Wong, the current Assistant Artistic Director of City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC), also originated there.
From Disco to Modern Dance
Dominic Wong’s tie with dance may seem accidental, but it could have been destined. In his early years, determined to become an actor, he applied to the Drama School of Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) and had worked as an ATV artiste. His only notion of dancing was Disco. “Before, when I went to the disco with my friends, I never set foot on the dance floor, I felt strange there.” Years after dedicating himself to dance, Wong cheerfully recounted the role of karma in paving the way.
Wong never thought of dancing himself. “When I was part of the ATV training program, one of the modern dance classes was taught by Willy Tsao and his fellow CCDC dancers. This opened up my eyes to dance.” After that, while working for the TV channel, one of his friends joined HKAPA’s extracurricular dance classes, and paid for Wong’s tuition so he’d have someone to take the class with. For Wong, it was not just cost free, it was an enjoyable dancing experience and within half a year, he was a regular at dance classes, completely immersing himself into the world of dance.
Dominic Wong in Helen Lai’s The Comedy of K.
攝Photo: Conrad Dy-Liacco
Wong discovered that he was not satisfied with his work in the TV industry; performing for the camera was far from his ideal of directly interacting with people while performing. Eventually, he quit his job at TV and applied for the HKAPA again, this time, to the School of Dance. “On registration day, I needed to decide which major to take. One of my friends, who was studying there passed by, so I asked his opinion. The friend right away suggested modern dance, and I took the advice without a second thought.” These seeming coincidences led Wong into his ideal world. “In less than six months after school started, I was already certain that modern dance was my aspiration; it was what I yearned for.” In 1996, after graduating, he joined CCDC and became a full-time dancer.
通往未知的世界 Heading to the Unknown
What makes modern dance so compelling for Wong? “To me, the charm of modern dance is that each movement is symbolic, each might carry emotions and feelings, a language (that I can exploit). I like the idea of ‘blank space’ in ink wash paintings; the perception changes slightly from one viewer to another.” Compared to the text and narratives of drama, he prefers the indirectness and blank spaces of modern dance as a medium to communicate to audiences and lead them into his world. Wong often uses metaphors while talking about his dance journey, which he explained might relate to his interest in comics. On many a sleepless night during his childhood his imagination ran wild filling his brain with different scenes. His imagination fuels every creation. “Once I was driving and looked up seeing the clouds above, it was so beautiful. I decided to create a work inspired by the clouds in the sky.” The result was his 2009 work created for CCDC, What’s Next.
Imagination is not the only engine driving his indefatigable creativity; his curiosity of the unknown is another. “A creator is akin to a voyager, who continuously discovers new lands, explores the unknown… If I were to know the destination of this rugged road, I would have ceased to create.” Looking back over the works he has choreographed, it’s clear that he continues to discover new creative territories. His highly playful dance dramas, Men’s Chop Suey and E.Y.T, clicked with his early drama background. Later, in Xtremely Four Seasons, Blind Chance, and Second Thoughts, he turned to exploration of pure movement. Travelogue, his 2017 work that won the Hong Kong Dance Award for Outstanding Medium Venue Production, signified the beginning of another stage of creation, “I didn’t choreograph the movements in advance. Rather, I created them with the dancers. It was my first co-creation work.”
黃狄文作品《別有洞天》Wong's Blind Chance
攝Photo: Jesse Clockwork
黃狄文作品《拼途》Wong's Travelogue 攝Photo: Cheung Chi Wai
Wong made use of the dancers as collaborators in choreographing Travelogue, making room for them to reveal their most intimate selves. “I considered myself the director. I created the concept, and experienced the journey of self-exploration with the dancers.” The work started with the dancers’ own stories, narratives that deeply moved him and let them get to know each other better as well. The work starts with a solo for Qiao Yang about her sister. The experience was an impressive one, “In the early stages, she (QiaoYang) didn’t know how to begin to tell her own story. However, after some discussion and movement trials, she slowly opened-up. It was a very valuable and memorable experience.”
Wong receiving Hong Kong Dance Award for Travelogue.
攝Photo: Mark Lam
Twenty Years of Rebirth
Working with CCDC for 20 years, going from dancer, to choreographer, to assistant artistic director, the company is where Wong has grown up. He is candid in revealing that he has thought about leaving more than once. The first time was after he had been with the company for two or three years, he thought of going abroad to gain more exposure, but eventually stayed on for the sake of the people close to him.
In 2006, after ten years with the company, Wong reflected on what he had accomplished and what he wanted to do in the future. Looking for fresh ideas and new insights, he thought about quitting the company again. But then, the company invited him to choreograph. It was an opportunity he jumped at, creating shorter works for mixed-bill programs, and then, in 2012, his first full-length piece Blind Chance. “To create, I am reborn like a phoenix, again and again."
Last year, Wong was promoted to the post of Assistant Artistic Director of CCDC. With his own career ups and downs in mind, he wanted to help company members bring freshness to every performance. Therefore, he designed workshops for each production that prepared dancers for the new perspective of the work. For instance, during the production of Sang Jijia and Tang Shu-wing’s Post-Perception / Transcendence, he invited Andy Ng Wai-Shek and Ata Wong to teach drama and movement theatre sessions with Tang Shu-wing. During the choreographic rehearsals for Bruce Wong’s Why Not Kill Us All…, he scheduled Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Wing Chun classes and arranged mask and movement workshops for his own production of The Little Prince. According to Wong, each work has its own vocabulary, and these workshops are the dictionaries that help dancers learn the different language of the work. Apart from production-oriented workshops, he also stresses the importance of the daily technique class to strengthen the body and further develop an artist’s range.
Wong (first from left), Willy Tsao (below) and dancers during 2017 Israel tour.
圖片由CCDC提供。Photo provided by CCDC.
Apart from the company’s artistic direction, the assistant artistic director is also responsible for managing the administration and planning of the company. Wong described, “This administrative role contrasts significantly from my previous dancing and creative work. I had to start from zero to learn about everything, from paperwork to administrative procedures, like a child. I am glad that colleagues from every department are all very helpful.” Warm-hearted and easy-going, Wong has won over the team with his gracious manner. Every member of the company likes him, and Willy Tsao, CCDC’s founder and Artistic Director, calls him the “Caring Guy”.
Having been a figure in Hong Kong’s modern dance circle for 20 years, Wong reflected that he graduated at a time when Hong Kong’s dance scene was beginning to flourish. It was a time when there was plenty of space for growth. Y-Space, E-side Dance Company, DanceArt Hong Kong, and other companies founded by early graduates of the HKAPA steadily contributed to the growth of Hong Kong’s modern dance. Because of their work, today, there is better support from West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Home Affairs Bureau, and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council for the dance sector. They ‘planted the walnuts and pears for their heirs’. Wong thinks that it is the right time to reap the benefits. “I would like to see Hong Kong’s dancing culture ripen, and share Hong Kong’s ‘exotic perspective’ with the world.” After assuming his new post, Wong has established several new projects to bring better development for the company and its dancers. He envisages that these can even serve as a platform for the next generation of dancers to show their talents, and for bringing about more opportunities for them in the international dance scene.
“I am a local artist. I could not leave behind Hong Kong’s modern dance development. I would like to continue doing something for it until my last breath."
謝嘉豪 Tse Kar Ho
From the University of Saint Joseph. Apart from writing and editing, he is also a performer and is currently director of Theatre Aether.