The Hong Kong Tap Festival, initiated and organised by R&T (Rhythm & Tempo) in 2010, offers Hong Kong tap teachers and enthusiasts the opportunity to appreciate and understand tap dance culture and skills through workshops and performances with world-renowned tap dance experts. Workshops are offered at different levels, from Beginner to Advanced, with the addition of Tap Talks and Jams and the whole Festival culminates in a Gala Performance, involving invited guests, from Hong Kong and overseas.
The first part of this year’s show focused on local performers, and an arrangement of Another Day of Sun from the movie La La Land, provided an energetic and colourful opening, with live accompaniment from Patrick Lui on piano, Fish Huang on drums and Tak Chung Wong on bass. Whilst the performers danced with confidence and personality, executing some pretty tricky footwork, I would like to suggest that when dancing to such a busy piece of music, it might be better to keep the tap rhythms simpler, so that both music and dance can be appreciated and performed in total synchronisation. It was wonderful to see so many young, local tappers maturing and developing, not only in technique but also in performance skills and choreography. I commend Eve Leung and Ken Kwok on nurturing and encouraging these students, providing them with a safe platform on which to hone their skills and keep tap dance alive in Hong Kong. These up and coming dancers used recorded music for their works and I understand why – it saves time and money! Even so, when you have the luxury of a live band, it seems a pity not to make the most of it. I feel that the students would be able to develop an additional skill and understand more about rhythm, phrasing and tone, creating a conversation with the musicians both on and off the stage.
The Saints; Performers(from left): Ken Kwok, Winston Morrison, Keitaro Hosokawa, Oh Hwan Kwon; Photo: Dicky Wong
Kwok brought us back to reality in his solo piece. With the lonely strains of the piano and a sudden gust of smoke, Kwok appeared in black, wearing a mask, reminding us all of the scenes that are currently being played out all over Hong Kong, including Nathan Road, on the night of the performance that I watched. Perhaps the original title of the show Beat. Me. Tap. was not such a good idea this year. Other regular guests, Wong Tan Ki (HK) and Dance Works (Taiwan), decided to perform a cappella (without music) for their numbers, yet maintained pulse and rhythmic sensibility throughout.
The second half of the show featured the three international guest artists, namely Winston Morrison from Australia, Oh Hwan Kwon from Korea and Keitaro Hosokawa from Japan. These artists had previously met and worked in New York together, and there was a strong cohesion between them, evident in all the works that they performed. 7 Steps, accompanied by the live band, demonstrated formation, rhythmic intensity and dynamics, along with a great rapport between dancers and musicians! For his solo, Morrison demonstrated that he is a man of many talents - a dancer, musician and singer – and yet his overall performance lacked a sense of continuity and I was left a little underwhelmed. In contrast, the other two artists, who decided to begin a cappella and then bring in the band, demonstrated some rapid-fire yet stylish footwork in their solos, always keeping their connection with the musicians and the audience. Their tone and use of accents were expressive and dynamic, working within specific rhythmic patterns and styles. They never missed a beat as well, despite their incredibly fast footwork.
My favourite works of the evening have to be Pulse and The Saints. Pulse involved 5 men from five different countries, dancing a cappella. Hosokawa began the piece, establishing and maintaining the basic pulse with simple steps and then one by one, each of the men came on stage to perform a solo and then join the pulse, in complete synchronisation. In contrast, The Saints provided a comedic element for the evening, with the guest artists plus Kwok playing a game of musical chairs, which then evolved into a variation of The Copasetics famous chair dance.
The finale of the show was the usual Shim Sham, when everyone comes on stage and performs the same routine. My feet were certainly tapping at this point and I longed to join them on the stage – their sense of enjoyment was infectious! The future of tap dance in Hong Kong is safe in the hands of R&T and I applaud their works to date.
Originally from the UK, Mandy has been teaching Tap Dance in Hong Kong for over 35 years. She has attended Tap Festivals in New York, Taiwan and Hong Kong and is currently Honorary Advisor for the Hong Kong Tap Festival, produced by R&T (Rhythm & Tempo).
Beat. Me. Tap.
Choreographers: Ken Kwok (HK), Eve Leung (HK), Tan-Ki Wong (HK), Keitaro Hosokawa (JP), Oh Hwan Kwon (KR), Winston Morrison (AU), Dance Works (TW)
Performance: 10 August 2019 19:45 Studio Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre