Dancers: (front row, from left) Liu Heung-man, Antoinette Mak; Photo: Eric Hong
Co-choreographed by Pewan Chow and Rosalind Newman and first performed in 2012 at the Multi-Media Theatre of HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity, Maze was awarded Outstanding Independent Dance Production at the 2013 Hong Kong Dance Awards. In 2013, it was performed in Guangdong and in June of next year, a new version, Maze: Pushing Boundaries 2.0, will be staged at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Studio Theatre, offering audiences a new perspective.
For the original production, the theater seating was removed to allow audiences to wander around the space throughout the performance. However, where they went was restricted by huge moving wall-like panels that also determined the perspective from which audiences observed the dancers’ movements. Furthermore, when the walls enclosed the audience in different configurations, it enriched the vibrancy and liveliness of the aesthetic experience.
Newman returned to Hong Kong this summer for six weeks to work with thirteen dancers, (there were eleven in the original version). And, in mid-August 2017 before she went back to New York, Passoverdance presented a progress showing of the work in the Dance Studio of Kwai Tsing Theatre. At the showing, dancers performed excerpts from seven scenes for an invited audience. They were instructed to move from one space to another, from one corner to the next, to see the movements and spatial patterns from the perspectives intended by the choreographers. Even though the powerful moving walls weren’t used for this showing, when the dancers were within reach, it was easy to feel moved by their dynamic actions. I expect the energy will be even more penetrating when the movements within the group of dancers have achieved greater synchronization in the months of rehearsals leading up to the performance.
Despite the enjoyable movements and composition of the progress showing, I was a bit disappointed. The phrases shown were familiar and reminiscent of those performed five years ago, with only minimal change from the originals. It seemed as if the showing was a rehearsal of an existent work, instead of its further development. According to Joseph Lee (one of the dancers), Newman has developed new material with the dancers over the six-week rehearsal period but the excerpts shown were only about a third of it. So, there is much to look forward to.
In addition to the dancers, the moving walls are essential parts of Maze. Chow will work out the arrangement and movement of these for the new edition. In the first version, they control how audiences see the work. In it, the choreographers and dancers make good use of the space beyond the audience’s immediate field of view to facilitate transitions between scenes. However, for Maze 2.0 it will be a different game since it will be performed in the Cultural Centre Studio Theatre and audiences will be separated into two groups. One group will watch the performance in the tiered area at the stage level, while another group will get a bird's-eye view from the balcony. Choreographers and dancers can no longer hide anything from part of the audience. Furthermore, it was the direct interaction between audience, dancers, and those moving walls that enhanced the experience throughout the performance of Maze. It will be another difficult problem to find a way to engage audiences in the balcony with the happenings onstage to the same extent as in the tiered area. If not, balcony audiences will only be outsiders in the Maze 2.0 experience.
It is always pleasing that a remarkable work further develops and involves emerging dancers. Although the invited audience only had a peek of some fragments of the work in the progress showing, it was a good opportunity for those who missed Maze five years ago to get an impression of what Maze 2.0 might become. Even though those who saw the original version may find some movements familiar, knowing the challenges of the new version still creates excited anticipation of how the choreographers will tackle them.
is a graduate student of Philosophy, specializing in Kant’s philosophy and aesthetics and a freelance writer and art administrator.
Maze: Pushing Boundaries 2.0 Progress Showing Choreographers: Pewan Chow, Rosalind Newman Performance: 12 August 2017 20:00 Dance Studio, Kwai Tsing Theatre