（左起）陳武康與皮歇．克朗淳 (From Left) Chen Wu-kang and Pichet Klunchun ;
《半身相》之官方宣傳照 Official Promotional Photos of Behalf
西九文化區於2017年發起探索成立亞洲地區舞蹈網絡的可行之途，經過接近兩年的研究，今年5月Asia Network For Dance (AND+網絡) 正式在港啟動。西九文化區管理局表演藝術主管（舞蹈）、AND+ 2018-19 聯合召集人陳頌瑛介紹，AND+旨在聯結、發展與加強亞洲地區的舞蹈實踐，架構上摒棄層級和會員制，追求信息的自由流動與不同地區同業的平等合作。她看到的是亞洲舞蹈界正面臨重重挑戰，其中跟亞洲多元的文化背景有關。今年五月由西九舉辦的製作人網絡會議及論壇（PNMF）的分組會議中，AND+的成員及亞洲舞蹈業界聚首一堂，討論跨文化合作的例子，當中的挑戰和機遇。
In 2017, the West Kowloon Cultural District (West Kowloon) initiated a discussion about the feasible ways to form a new Asian dance network. After nearly two years of study, the Asia Network for Dance (AND+) was founded in Hong Kong in May 2018. Anna CY Chan, Head of Dance at West Kowloon and AND+ Co-Convener 2018 – 2019, said that AND+ aims to connect, develop and strengthen contemporary practice in dance within Asia. Seeking free flow of information and equal collaboration among fellow dance practitioners from different areas, the network has no hierarchical structure and membership system. She notices the present challenges of the Asian dance scene and some of them are related to the diverse cultures of Asia. In the breakout sessions at the Producer’s Network Meeting & Forum (PNMF) organized by West Kowloon in May 2018, members of AND＋ met with dance professionals in Asia to discuss cases of cross-cultural collaboration as well as challenges and opportunities they presented.
AND+ 核心小組 AND+ core group;
圖片由西九文化區管理局提供 Photo Provided by West Kowloon Cultural District Authority
AND+ kicks off to embrace challenges for Asian dance scene
Leading dance professionals in Asia into discussing the vision, mission and means of collaboration of the network, several meetings were held in Hong Kong (May 2017), Jakarta, Indonesia (November 2017) and Yokohama, Japan (February 2018) by West Kowloon.
Chan believes that the Asian dance scene is facing various challenges. First of all, Asia is a vast area encompassing diverse languages, histories, geographies, and cultures. How to deal with different traditions, audience demands and varying practices are necessary issues to be considered in artistic creation. ‘We know little about our surrounding regions even though we live in Asia’; secondly, there are multiple meanings and interpretations for “contemporary” that we need to explore it in more depth in different cultural contexts; thirdly, dedicated venues for dance within Asia are scarce. Exchange and resource sharing among fellow dance practitioners, therefore, are of utmost importance. This is exactly how the idea of AND+ was brewed up.
Reviewing the results of past meetings, that the Hong Kong meeting held in 2017 preliminarily identified six key directions, set out itineraries of the forthcoming two meetings and established a task force; the Indonesian meeting in 2017 confirmed three major goals and implemented the “mapping exercise”, a practice to list information about dance festivals, residency programmes, networks and funding platforms of the regions within a short period of time, for members to share and learn about the dance maps in Asia; and the 2018 Yokohama meeting confirmed the name, vision and missions and framework of the network. AND+ was inaugurated in May 2018 with three official goals announced: To share knowledge and information; to expand connections for dance professionals, and to strengthen the visibility of dance within and beyond Asia.
Regarding the operation of the network, Chan said that they want to abandon the top-down or bottom-up hierarchy and set up a horizontal organization attaching great importance to equality, openness, and sharing. A core group of AND+ was formed by dance professionals from various regions with a tenure of three years. The group is responsible for disseminating information, promoting AND+ to artists and producers and to facilitate connections between AND+ and other networks. At the first meeting of the core group held in this May, group members agreed upon that the several upcoming meetings will be held in Kaohsiung/Taipei, Melbourne, Singapore/Kuala Lumpur, Yokohama, Jakarta, Bangalore and Shanghai and they also confirmed the convener of each meeting, in addition to creating an AND+ Facebook account.
“All these are grown from our passion for dance that we are propelled to do more,” said Chan. Producers participating at the meeting engaged in group discussions on the goals and vision of AND+, a better operation of the network and how it can actually benefit participating dance professionals and their works. In the program sharing session on the next day, producers from different areas shared details of their dance projects and had discussions about art making, audience engagement, and development of dance communities, etc…
Dance Parallel Session of PNMF: Dance Forum Issue in Presenting Artistic Transnational Collaboration & Co-Production Work; 圖片由西九文化區管理局提供 Photo Provided by West Kowloon Cultural District Authority
Cloud Gate provides resources to bring about Taiwan-Thailand artist collaboration
AND+ tries linking up artists and producers from different areas of Asia to develop cross-cultural dance experiments. How do choreographers of different cultural backgrounds get into one another’s creative worlds? And how do they present their works to audiences of distinct cultural backgrounds? Behalf, a collaboration between the Taiwan choreographer Chen Wu-kang and the Thai choreographer Pichet Klunchun which is facilitated by Cloud Gate Theatre, is an exemplary case to illustrate.
Chen Pin-hsiu, Program Manager of Cloud Gate Theatre, said that Cloud Gate has been looking for “the next choreographer”. Besides serving as a platform to showcase the works of emerging artists, Cloud Gate also wants to offer more, be it the “Wanderer Programme” to send artists to areas of Asia for “poor travels”, the LMF Dance Fund to subsidize young talents with their projects, or the “Art Makers Project” in which awardees will receive mentorship from Lin Hwai-min and Cheng Tsung-lung. These are all resourceful programs to help young artists nurture their creative energy. ‘We do not ask for any products from these three programs,’ she said. ‘The reason for us to produce Behalf is, with our technical support, promotional strategy, marketing resources, etc., that we want to help artists dive into traditions to find their own answers [to questions such as]: Who am I? What do I want to say?’
Finding Oneself in the Traditional Cultures of Others
To find his own path in within tradition was probably Chen’s the strongest feeling of this work. A third-generation mainlander in Taiwan with a family history in Guangxi, he dreamt of becoming Michael Jackson when he was a kid. Yet he found his inner peace in ballet by chance. “At that time I had many videotapes and all the people I saw in them had blonde hair and with blue eyes. When I danced, I felt like I was had the same features.”
He joined a dance company after his military service. He went to New York for further study later and started his long-term collaboration with the choreographer Eliot Feld. The hybrid culture of America made him reflect on his ident
ity more. “I recall that when I was small, a teacher once asked us in class, ‘Are you Taiwanese?’ We hadn’t come up with any answers when the class ended,” Chen said. “After returning to Taiwan, I remember [the dancer] Bulareyang of Spring Riot once said that he was going home and back to his tribe to choreograph. Then I thought to myself, ‘You can go home, but how about me?’” He recalled his ancestral hometown “Hepu, Guangxi” written on his childhood ID card and so he set out to search for his roots. Everything he encountered there, however, was foreign to him and he couldn’t help complaining, “What do these have to do with me?” Who am I? It seemed difficult for him to find the answer, until…
“I met Pichet Klunchun in 2016.”
Klunchun had been a protégé of Chaiyot Khummanee, a master of the traditional Thai Khon, since he was sixteen. His ‘contemporized’ interpretation of Khon, however, drew fierce criticism later. In 2016, he was invited to give a talk in Taiwan and he paid a visit to Chen one evening. “I was a bit scared when he came to my rehearsal studio. It is a tiny tin house. There is a recycling station on the left and a Guan Gong Temple on the right. We talked about many issues and then we meditated together. At that moment, I felt that I had found in him a contrast to my ‘impurity’ – a pure Thai passport, a traditional Thai dancer…Then I thought, would I find peace if I worked with him? How about if we collaborated?”
They started their collaboration and exchanges with ongoing dialogues afterwards. They brought along their children to travel back and forth between Bangkok and Hong Kong to visit each other’s dance company. They chatted, meditated, warmed up, went to class, took care of their children… “We had meetings with producers to discuss whether we needed a dramaturg. We thought over our rehearsal. Yet we were not diligent at all. When we rehearsed, for instance, we would spend two hours to warm up and then started chatting,” said Chen.
Getting into each other’s life and understanding the refined body nurtured by different cultures and traditions gradually emerged. The production unit has also grown into an established team with professionals across Asia. The independent theater consultant Tang Fu-kuen from Singapore took up the role of dramaturg while Fujimoto Takayuki from Japan serves as lighting designer…Chen and Klunchun did not give up their “quality of life” even at the final stages of rehearsal. They participated in the residency program offered by the Kinosaki International Arts Centre in Japan and soaked themselves in onsen during the two-week residency.
Producers Reflect on the Support Cross-cultural Collaboration Needs and Delivering Cultural Meaning to Audiences
When reviewing the collaboration, Huang Wen, Producer of Behalf, said, “During rehearsals, Wu-kang was always the funny guy while Pichet looked serious. Realizing there was a huge contrast, they both tried to balance it out. Fu-kuen would jump in and kept reminding, ‘What are your goals?’ It was a very unique experience. Later when they were in Japan, it was like they were jumping out of their own cultural contexts to experience and reflect. At that time, artistic details were not influenced by their own cultural backgrounds. During the whole process, we kept thinking what did the artist need for a collaboration like this? Time? We have been doing this work for over two years and it is still growing. Space? It is very important to be in various kinds of space. Taking up residency, for example, will provide artist a different backdrop to deliberate. How about resources? Besides hardwares, we also need a mixed audience. Moreover, this time we tried to let the artists stay with their children during their creative process; we even provided babysitting service when they performed. This is their lives that is key to creation.”
In the creative process, which lasted for about two years, Chen said that Cloud Gate Theatre had showed huge respect for the artists. The only change they proposed was the name of the work and suggested “Behalf” to replace the original “Traditions of the Body”. This inspired the artists to reflect over and brought the work to the next phase. In the beginning, the team already thought about touring to meet with different audiences. In the performance, they experimented with an adventurous yet interesting format – they included a Q&A session and let the audience decide when to end the performance. “Such power reversal is very important. It also enabled us to see that there were many thoughts going on in audiences’ minds,” Chen said.
To the artists, this work is a journey to seek out traditions and reflect on themselves; to the producer, it is a challenging process to understand the intentions of artists of different cultural contexts and then deliver them to the audience.
台灣舞者陳武康 Taiwan dancer Chen Wu-kang;
圖片由西九文化區管理局提供 Photo Provided by West Kowloon Cultural District Authority
Everyone Understands Foreign Culture Differently
Chen demonstrated on-site a part of dance in which hand and head movements were emphasized. After the demonstration, he asked the participants about the dance. Someone said there was significant influence of traditional Thai dance in it while some kind of rebellion against ballet traditions was noted by the other one. These movements, Chen said, were “strictly ballet” to him and even had a touch of Taosim. How producers and audiences interpret the work according to their own cultures when they see a work from a foreign cultural context was shown through various on-site feedback.
European Dance Network (EDN) 董事局成員來自意大利的 Roberto Casarotto 分享道，與台灣雲門舞集面對藝術總監換代的情況相似，EDN近年來也面臨不同舞蹈中心總監的換代。就網絡內部而言，不同地區的文化差異、代際觀念差異、新的社會環境所帶來的新議題等，都讓製作人們面臨更為複雜的多樣性局面。在面對跨文化合作時，將需要更深入的理解與更微妙的平衡。建立新的對話無疑是重中之重。
Roberto Casarotto, the Italian board member of the European Dancehouse Network (EDN), said that EDN has been dealing with the director succession issue for its dance centers, a situation similar to the succession of artistic director of Cloud Gate Dance Theater. Internally, with new issues brought up by cultural differences among different regions, differing values between generations, and new social environments, producers have to face a more complicated and diverse world. They need to achieve a deeper understanding and a more subtle balance when dealing with cross-cultural collaborations. Building up new dialogues is certainly the most important of all tasks.
Chan believes that, when working on a cross-cultural work, producers may need to consider if they have “racialized” the work according to their own understanding and set the direction for its development in the selection process. And how to balance the power between producers and artists – to what extent has the producer shaped the work?
In the case of Behalf, the production team gave enormous respect and freedom to the artists given that the only change they suggested was for the title of the work. Whether it is was out of consideration for marketing or to help depict more precisely the creative direction of the artists, such change demonstrates the efforts of the producer and the production team in guiding audiences’ perspective.
European Dance Network (EDN) 與 AND+ 在PNMF期間的計劃享環節; Project sharing of END and AND+ during the PNMF; 圖片由西九文化區管理局提供 Photo Provided by West Kowloon Cultural District Authority
Solving and Utilizing ‘Misreading’ by Audiences
How to reach out to audiences of varying cultural contexts and present to them the foreign cultural background of the work as well as the intention of the artist is another challenge. When shown in Europe or other regions, works from Asia in particular are very often labelled as “Asian”, having “oriental flair” or even as “exotic”, a brutally simple description.
As Chen Wu-kang said, they prefer to be considered a normal contemporary dance company when going on tour. “But I understand that, without the ‘Asian’ or ‘exotic’ labels, we may be difficult to categorize and market.” What kinds of strategy will producers adopt to deal with this market reality?
墨爾本DANCEHOUSE行政總監兼藝術總監Angela Conquet認為，在演出前準備充分的公眾活動是重要一環。她以2015年將法國編舞家Xavier Le Roy的作品帶到澳洲為例，因為作品是非常新潮的觀念主義舞蹈，吸引澳洲觀眾有難度。「在澳洲，對當代舞的理解還停留在就是有『很多很多的動作』，沒人在意Le Roy是誰以及觀念舞蹈是什麼。」
Angela Conquet, Executive Director and Artistic Director of DANCEHOUSE from Melbourne, thinks that sufficient pre-performance activities are key. She cited her experience of taking the work of the French choreographer Xavier Le Roy to Australia in 2015 as an example. It was hard for the work to appeal to the Australian audience as it was emergent “Conceptual Dance”. “In Australia, perception of contemporary dance was still confined to having a lot movements and no one would care about Le Roy and Conceptual Dance.”
The organizer, therefore, mapped out a series of talks, dialogues, screenings, and exhibitions to ignite discussions around the work and contemporary dance before the performance and “build a context for the audience”, as Angela puts it. Interestingly, although detailed introduction of the background had been done, after the performance audiences still had the same questions as those of the audiences in France when the work was shown there seventeen years before: Was it contemporary dance? Why do they move this way? What was this person doing? “In spite of this, we were reminded to keep trying to understand the background of the work and audience context. It will be a huge problem if we do not do this,” said Angela.
向觀眾傳達作品的文化內涵，需要製作團隊詳細鋪排。但對藝術而言，不同文化間的誤讀未必是完全的壞事。正如Mercat De Les Flors藝術節目策劃及策展人Marc Olivé所說：「我視（作品）被加上標籤為機會，讓觀眾發現完全意料之外的作品。對我來說觀眾如何標籤你並不重要，反倒是可以利用的。」
Production team have to come up with a detailed plan in order to deliver the cultural substance of the work to audiences. In the world of art, however, misinterpretations among varying cultures are not necessarily a bad thing. As Marc Olivé, Program Director and Curator of Mercat De Les Flors, said, “I consider the label [of the work] an opportunity for audiences to discover some totally surprising works. To me, how audiences label you is not important. And you can make good use of it instead.”
Editor's Note: This article is also published in DJ20-5 printed version, under Anna CY Chan's column An Eye On Dance