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[中][ENG]每一個平台也是藝術家的養份 ——與今年白朗唐新晉編舞馬師雅專訪 Every platform nourishes artists -- an interview with this year’s Tom Brown Emerging Choreographer Alice Ma

[中]每一個平台也是藝術家的養份

——與今年白朗唐新晉編舞馬師雅專訪

文:葉瑪

 

新鮮出爐的「香港舞蹈年獎2020」白朗唐新晉編舞得主馬師雅(Alice),可謂近年香港舞蹈界「寵兒」。2020年她原定參與的平台包括西九文化區自由空間、香港藝術節、康文署「舞蹈新鮮人」系列,在香港這相對窄小的行頭,可算獲得相當多機會。這次訪問,我們邀請Alice以藝術家的第一身經驗,從中小團的獨立創作到香港最大的文化機構,逐一回顧過去所參與的大大小小平台。

 

一、成長需要的是絕對自由

Alice是一個非常「實幹型」的舞蹈藝術家。她透過不斷創作建立里程碑,肯定創作方向。剛於演藝學院舞蹈系畢業初期,甚麼也試,即便是戲劇演出也能看到她的身影。沒有甚麼比起參與一趟演出更直接地讓一個藝術家了解自己不同面向的能力;因此,對於初出茅廬的編舞,絕對自由的演出平台便是最佳的成長空間。

 

在香港,新晉編舞多以東邊舞蹈團(東邊)和多空間(Y-Space)等主辦的中小型舞蹈平台為事業起點。Alice甫畢業便獲東邊藝術總監余仁華(Jacky)邀請,於舞團名下的編舞平台發表作品。她形容,東邊平台的放任和自由,滋養了她的創作路——Jacky甚少過問她的創作方向及進度,對題材也沒有審查,只有在她主動尋求意見時,才會提供建議。「有些人或者很需要顧問從中指導和協助,但我更傾向在創作過程中自行解決問題,找合適的對象傾談。」對Alice而言,觀眾就是最佳的指導員。隨著她持續在東邊發表作品,透過一些相熟的業界人士和長期觀眾的分享,她持續摸索自己的創作概念、訊息、情感如何有效地轉化為舞蹈演出,並進一步找到自己的創作風格。

 

中小型舞蹈平台的自由教人嚮往,然而它們的資源通常較緊絀。藝術家無可避免需要耗費心力,處理道具、服裝、甚至是技術調教等製作所需;適逢以人偶為題的《Soulless》讓Alice開始掌握以角色形塑為編舞風格,她亦開始與更大型藝術機構合作。最熟為人知的,便是於香港藝術節首演兼獲好評的兩部作品:《烏》及《點指》。

香港賽馬會當代舞蹈平台《舞鬥》中《點指》;編舞 Choreographer:馬師雅 Alice Ma;攝:張志偉Cheung Chi-wai@Moon 9 Image

 

 

二、超越限制便會進步

香港藝術節的「賽馬會當代舞蹈平台」每年也會委約本地年青編舞製作原創演出,由2018年開始,Alice每年也獲邀參與。問到這類型機構和過往獨立平台的分別,少不免提到也是製作單位在節目編排上的完備:由處理預算細節、排練場地等安排,以至音響及燈光設計、技術團隊支援,令藝術家可將全盤心思放到創作上。

 

更現實的考慮,是該舞蹈平台的資源和規模,讓她的創作有更大的發展空間。Alice重視和觀眾的交流,她坦言,「過去也會有點氣餒,即使如何努力,能夠接觸到的觀眾始終有限…… 我也希望,自己能把作品帶到更遠的地方。」該舞蹈平台於較大的黑盒劇場演出,而且有些觀眾平常甚少觀看現代舞,會因「藝術節」這品牌慕名而來。加上香港的舞蹈製作,大多都只有兩、三場演出,而這平台讓她把作品帶到學校,甚至世界不同城市巡演。這些機會,都讓一個創作的生命可以一直延續下去。

 

不過,機構主辦的舞蹈平台講求整體節目規劃。製作人、技術單位需要照顧不同編舞之餘,亦需平衡整個平台的藝術風格和方向。他們全面支援的同時,亦為作品設下框架。而且每次合作,Alice亦需定期與副節目總監蘇國雲商討創作方向。

 

那是不是代表,在如此的資源網絡下,藝術家的創作反受限制?「任何地方也有屬於它的限制,我只考慮如何在限制裡實現自己的創作。」甚至,這些限制不一定是阻礙,而是藝術家突破自己的機會。由過去在東邊的「自己做自己事」到藝術節需要事事商討,Alice學會了表達自己。「普遍舞者也不太能夠清楚表達創作概念,第一次(2017年)和藝術節開會時,我不知自己在說甚麼;但近來再開會,我忽然意識到,原來自己進步了不少。」

 

香港賽馬會當代舞蹈平台《舞鬥》中《烏》;編舞:馬師雅;攝:Cheung Wai-lok

 

 

三、以實驗為重心,成敗不由作品界定

誠然,舞蹈藝術家的成長,單靠不斷創作並不足夠。年輕編舞發展到一定階段,他們更需要擴闊藝術視野,精進技藝。西九文化區自由空間提倡階段性的研究及跨媒介合作,以時間和空間蘊釀更多的藝術可能,去年亦邀請了Alice參與相關的創作平台,包括由音樂及舞蹈藝術家主導的「舞・樂互碰2020」。

 

習慣了香港業界一直以製作為先,Alice起始於這樣開宗明義標榜以「work-in-progress」(透過持續展演而發展創作的方法)的平台亦有感無所適從。平台的策劃人張月娥(Karen)和龔志成(阿龔),撮合她與另一位音樂人李穎姍後,便任由她們自由創作。但她承認,交流的進程不盡順利,成品亦不夠完美。

 

那麼,為什麼要參與一個充滿不確定性的平台?她覆述阿龔經常重複的說話:「你最好做一些不知道是甚麼的創作。」創作不需要一個完善的計劃,更需要的,是藝術家作出嘗試的勇氣;而能夠沒有壓力下創作,「實驗到甚麼,就給觀眾看甚麼」,便是該平台珍貴之處。「現實就是,給予藝術家時間和空間創作,並不等如那創作必定會成功。」那些未竟全功的實驗,讓她了解不同文化背景的藝術家如何思考、如何創作,那些經驗及實驗成果,亦能成為下一次創作的原材料。

 

到韓國NDA 國際舞蹈節2019參與比賽與;攝:Anthea Chan

 

 

四、無論在哪裡,我也是一樣地在創作

訪問尾聲,我們問Alice對各平台有沒有甚麼意見。她提到各平台之間河水不犯井水的現況:「大多情況下主辦單位也不容許我將過去於別個平台的創作帶過去繼續發展。」於是一個平台上建立的計劃,到別個平台卻不可延伸發展。客觀而言,各平台定位、角色各異,他們之間理應可互相補全,互補成更大規模,或是更全面的舞蹈平台。

 

然而,獨立編舞縱然是這些平台的主角,他們的角色也是十分被動,難以左右主辦單位的決定。正如在2020年肺炎疫情的打擊下,馬師雅原定參與的製作,有的直接延期到2021年,有的在繼續和停擺中懸而未決。她能做到的,就只有繼續自己的創作——看書、看電影,為自己未知會否延期的下一部作品作資料搜集。

 

無論在哪裡,有沒有平台,藝術家也不會停止步伐。

 

 

 

 

 

===

文:葉瑪

倫敦大學畢業,回流三年,界乎於機構與自由身之間製作劇場;

寫政治/文化/藝術,以香港作為信仰。

 

[ENG] Every platform nourishes artists
-- an interview with this year’s Tom Brown Emerging Choreographer Alice Ma

Text: Yama

 

The brand new recipient of the Tom Brown Emerging Choreographer Award at this year’s Hong Kong Dance Awards, Alice Ma, has become one of the Hong Kong dance scene’s ‘favourites’ in recent years. Given the limitations of Hong Kong’s dance industry, she has been given a lot of opportunities.  In 2020, prior to the pandemic, she had been scheduled to contribute to several platforms including Freespace at West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD), the Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) and the ‘New Force in Motion’ series by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD). In this interview, I invited Ma to share her first-hand experience as an artist -- from creating independent works at smaller companies to working with Hong Kong’s largest cultural organizations -- to look back at the various platforms she has participated in.

Interplay - The Speechless Deer presented by The Interzone Collective;Photo:Moka

 

 

1. Absolute freedom is necessary for artists to develop

Ma is a very ‘pragmatic’ dance artist. Her way to become sure of her creative direction is by building milestones through creating more and more work. Right after graduating from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts as a dance major, Ma took every performance opportunity she had, even appearing in drama productions. There is nothing better than participating in a performance for artists to learn about the different aspects of their abilities. Hence, a performance platform that offers complete freedom is the perfect space for a young choreographer to mature.

 

In Hong Kong, new choreographers often start through small-scale platforms such as E-Side Dance Company (E-Side) and Y-Space. Soon after graduation, Ma was invited by Jacky Yu, E-Side’s artistic director, to present her works on their choreography platform. She says that E-Side’s policy of non-interference and giving artistic freedom nourished her creative path -- Yu seldom asked about the progress and direction of her works, and did not censor any topics. He only gave advice when she asked for his comments. “Some artists might need a lot of help and direction from the producer but I tend to solve problems by myself, and find the right people to talk to.” To Ma, the audience is the best director. As she continuously presented her work at E-Side, listening to feedback from close associates in the dance industry and a few long term audience members enabled her to carry on discovering how her creative concepts, messages and emotions can be translated effectively into dance performances, and allowed her to further develop her own style.

 

While the freedom of working with small to medium sized companies is enjoyable, they are often short on resources. It is inevitable that artists have to put in extra mental and physical effort to tackle props, costume, and even technical issues. Starting from her puppet-themed work Soulless, Ma began to master character shaping as a choreographic style, and began to work with larger organizations. Her best known works include Wu and Over-master, both of which premiered at HKAF and received a good reception.

 

 

2. Pushing the boundaries to make progress

Every year, the HKAF’s Hong Kong Jockey Club Contemporary Dance Series commissions young local choreographers to produce original pieces, and since 2018 Ma has been one of those selected. When asked about the differences between working with this kind of organization versus independent platforms in the past, one obvious point is the comprehensive programme arrangements they offer. The organizer takes care of all the details, from budgeting and booking rehearsal venues to sound and lighting design and technical support, enabling artists to occupy themselves only with their own creative work.

 

Another realistic concern is that the greater resources and scale of the platform offer Ma more room to develop her work. She values interaction with the audience. As she says, “I was a little discouraged in the past when it seemed that however hard I tried, my work could only reach a limited audience… I hope to show my work further afield.” The HKAF dance platform allows performances to be staged in a higher profile theatre and to attract a wider audience, some of whom seldom watch modern dance but come because of the ‘Arts Festival’ brand name. Besides, while dance productions in Hong Kong usually only have 2-3 shows, this platform has brought Ma’s works into schools and to cities around the world. These opportunities keep the works alive.

 

However, the organizer also emphasizes the overall programme planning for the platform. In addition to taking care of individual choreographers, producers and technical teams have to balance the artistic style and direction for the whole platform. They not only provide comprehensive support, they also place the work within a context. Furthermore, Ma has to discuss her creative objectives with the Associate Programme Director, So Kwok-wan, regularly for each collaboration.

 

So does this mean that in this resource network, artists are in turn restricted in their work? “Any place has its restrictions. I only think about how to realize my work within those restrictions.” Besides, these restrictions might not be obstacles, but opportunities for artists to break through themselves. From “doing my own thing” at E-Side to discussing every detail at HKAF, Ma has learnt to express herself. “Most choreographers aren’t able to clearly communicate their creative concepts. At my first meeting with HKAF (in 2017), I didn’t know what I was talking about, but during recent meetings, I realize that I’ve improved a lot.”

 

3. Focus on experimenting - success or failure are not defined by the work

Frankly speaking, continuous creation on its own is not enough to enable dance artists to grow. Young choreographers reach a stage where they need to broaden their horizons and advance their skills. Freespace by WKCD advocates phased studies and cross-media collaborations, creating artistic possibilities with time and space. Last year, they invited Ma to participate in their creative platforms, including Choreographer and Composer Lab 2020, a platform led by musicians and dance artists.

 

Having become used to the “production first” concept usual in the Hong Kong performing arts industry, Ma was confused by this ‘work-in-progress’ platform (developing creative works through showcasing their progress at each stage). After the platform’s curators Karen Cheung and Kung Chi Shing connected Ma with musician Fiona Lee, they let them create freely, but she admits that the exchange process was not all smooth and the product was not perfect.

 

If that’s the case, why should artists take part in a platform that is full of uncertainties? She recalls Kung’s words, which he re-stated several times. “You ought to create works without knowing what they are.” The creative process does not require thorough planning, rather, what’s more important is for artists to have the courage to try new things. The possibility of creating under no pressure, to “let the audience see what you get from experimenting”, are this platform’s most valuable aspects. “In reality, allowing artists time and space to create does not necessarily equate to how successful their work is.” From those unfinished experiments, Ma came to understand how artists from different backgrounds think and create. These experiences and experimental results can provide raw material for her future work.

 

4. No matter where I am, I always keep creating

Near the end of the interview, we asked Ma for her comments on the different platforms. She brought up the problem that each platform sticks to ‘minding its own business’. “In most cases, organizers don’t allow us to bring previous works from other platforms to develop on their platform.” Hence works created on one platform cannot be developed further on another one. Looking at it objectively, each platform’s unique role and positioning should allow them to complement each other, thus forming a larger scale, or more comprehensive, network of platforms instead of operating in isolation from each other.

 

Yet even though individual choreographers are the stars of these platforms, they play a very passive role. It is difficult for them to influence organizers’ decisions. Moreover, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, some of Ma’s productions were postponed to 2021, and some are still fluctuating between postponement and cancellation.  During this time, she can only continue her own creative process -- reading, watching movies and doing research for her next work, although she is uncertain as to whether or not it will be postponed.

 

No matter where artists are and whether or not they have a platform available, artists do not come to a halt.

 

(English Translation by Tiffany Wong)

 

 

 

 

 

 

===

Text:Yama

Graduated from University of London, returned to Hong Kong for 3 years, interchanging between theatre organizations and freelancing;Writes about politics/ culture/ arts, takes Hong Kong as her belief.

 

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