Dance Curating in Asia
黃翠絲 Tracy Wong（香港 HK／澳門 Macau）、毛維 Mao Wei（香港 HK）
「在地」藝術節策展人 Curators of On Site art festival
翻譯Translation: Tiffany Wong
[中] 關於「在地」的背後理念 —— 談當代舞蹈藝術平民化之必要
[ENG] Behind On Site – Why it’s important to popularize Contemporary Dance in Macau
The development of contemporary dance in Macau started late, and even today very few young dancers are willing to devote themselves to it. Most of the time, when renowned foreign companies are invited to perform in Macau, only a small audience will pay to see them as most people don’t know much about contemporary dance, and thus are not willing to spend their money on it. In view of this, we hope to make contemporary dance more ‘’popular” by displaying the art form in the context of Macau’s own human history and geography, and at the same time fight for stronger awareness of contemporary art among the general public.
From January 9-13 this year, we curated and organized our second On Site arts festival, which consisted of various elements: performances, workshops, flash street shooting, exchange platforms and documentation We’re seeking to break away from conventional thinking in festivals by offering our audience the chance to look through a different lens and gain a new kind of appreciation. Through hosting free entry and outdoor events and abandoning the traditional glamour of stage lights and setting, we hope to restore sovereignty to dancing bodies, to expose what usually happens inside the theatre to the general mass of people outside. In addition, we hope that through this art festival, local and foreign artists can gather and interact, to improve the diversity and inclusiveness of Macau’s contemporary art scene, increase artistic appreciation among the public, and eventually build a unique contemporary art environment in Macau.
On Site arts festival 2020; Photo provided by Tracy Wong
There are a lot of things we want to do, and this festival is something we are determined to make happen. As part of the young generation, we see clearly what the artists of this generation need, and we feel what they lack. Contemporary dance is a niche and unique form of art, each person sees and interprets it differently, which is precisely where its beauty lies. As local-born new blood of Macau’s contemporary dance sector, we hope to bring in new ideas which will have an impact to promote the development of the genre in Macau, to show how we understand it and why we pursue it. In the past few years, we have performed and participated in artistic residency and cultural exchange programmes in Europe, gaining a deeper understanding of the arts environment in European countries. That has made us realize that Macau has fallen a long way behind. This leads us to a significant problem: the difficulty of keeping our artists here in Macau.
The highest level of arts education available within Macau is the vocational high school. After graduation, many talented people are obliged to go overseas, to the Mainland, or to Hong Kong to attend university. Once they graduate from university, since they have already built networks and relationships in the city where they were studying, they choose to stay there, or to further their studies or join a company in European or American cities where the arts ecosystems are more developed. Why doesn’t anyone return to Macau? Or should we ask, what can we do if we do return?
There are two major arts festivals in Macau – Macao Arts Festival and Macau City Fringe Festival. Every year, contemporary artists return to Macau for a short time to attend these two festivals – then they leave after the events have ended. The government invests a lot of resources in holding performances, but it’s always the same limited group of people that are willing to pay for tickets who get to see these shows. We often complain that the theatre audience is restricted to too small a circle, but how can we try to solve this problem? This points to another issue in Macau – expanding the audience group and promoting the arts. The more you come in contact with the general public, the more you understand that it’s not that they ’don’t like’ contemporary art, it’s that they simply don’t know anything about it. Many people’s first reaction to contemporary dance is that it is too obscure, too abstract and too hard to understand. We see the gap between art and the public, and while we understand their resistance to appreciating contemporary works in the existing arts atmosphere, we also understand that this lack of audience at theatres makes local artists reluctant to return and work here.
On Site arts festival 2020; Photo provided by Tracy Wong
With the development of contemporary art in Macau still at such an early stage, it is difficult to build a contemporary art environment. While works of contemporary art from the past may be comparatively deep, in recent years productions have begun to cross over among different media, fusing drama, music, images and different kinds of dance, making these works more enjoyable to watch. This added accessibility is gradually lowering the aesthetic barrier to appreciating contemporary arts, with the aim of breaking down the audience’s inherent hesitation to experience them. It might sound nice and simple to take advantage of the cross-border trend of contemporary art and host a free outdoor festival, but we don't have much precedent to follow, and are still experimenting with different options for practical operations. Daniel Yeung described his curated Hong Kong Dance Exchange festival as "an experiment… as there was neither an existing model to follow nor any expectation of successful outcomes.", we feel the same way and think that this is an experiment that is linked closely to the development of contemporary art today, where hopefully we can shorten the distance between the public and contemporary arts through our various efforts. We believe we allow many people to see what interests them, but how many are ready to go all the way and take the final step to the theatre? Will the audience understand the point of our performing outdoors? Perhaps there are too many uncertainties in our way of tackling these issues, but an artistic environment cannot be established overnight
With regard to the positioning of On Site, we have put ourselves in the shoes of artists to think about the best way to do it, and we have also thought about it from the audience’s perspective -- what do we want to see? Because the audience needs the artists’ works, and the artists’ works need the audience’s support. For this first experiment, our choices have to be safe, convincing and of a high standard. We have brought together, from what we have seen overseas in recent years, a collection of physical, high quality works to be performed in Macau. At the same time, we’re searching for outstanding work by local artists from Macau, hoping to strike a balance between local and foreign work. We’re also increasing the depth of our choice of works step by step in the hopes of retaining our audience from year to year.
On Site is still green, and we are perfecting it step by step. We hope to improve what we have already done well, and to develop our style further. We wish to create a festival that brings art to the public and makes steady progress, to develop a unique contemporary art culture and environment in Macau.
Hopefully one day, it will be as common to go to contemporary dance performances in Macau as it is to go to the movies.
 On site art festival is sponsored by Macau City Fringe Festival and supported by the project Crème de la Fringe, where participants curate a mini festival for the Macao City Fringe Festival based on a certain community/ theme.