[中][ENG]我們需要重新定義這世代的香港舞蹈—楊春江專訪 Redefining Hong Kong dance for this generation -- An interview with Daniel Yeung

[中]我們需要重新定義這世代的香港舞蹈 — 楊春江專訪

文:袁潔敏

 

這次專訪,我們相約訪談剛上任藝發局舞蹈組主席不久的楊春江(Daniel),聽聽他對行業困境的分析及對變革的盼望。

 

「藤㨢瓜、瓜㨢藤」的行業困境

Daniel 直言,香港舞蹈業界面對的嚴峻困境並不是疫情導致的停市停課,而是舞蹈藝術在香港一直難以發展。舞者完成專業訓練後,接觸到最多的是舞蹈教育、商業演出,甚至依靠舞蹈以外的兼職幫補收入。他形容這是一種「踩界」,即以非純藝術家的工作來支持自己發展藝術事業。

 

觀乎現實,純舞蹈藝術家在香港根本無法維持生計。當舞者接受專業訓練,學習藝術創作,畢業後卻花上大部分時間參與中丶小學童舞蹈創作,更要花上心神照顧學生,他形容這是「為他人作嫁衣裳」;而教學亦未必能刺激舞蹈家發展純藝術創作,因他們很難從中尋找自己獨特的語彙和風格作創作素材。而即使有部分人參與較多商業演出,這些工作也未必有效幫助其純藝術性的創作。

 

據他觀察,舞蹈藝術生態之不平衡,箇中原因千絲萬縷。一方面,坊間多年來也有聲音指演藝學院像職業訓練學院—課程只著重訓練舞者技巧,而非培育舞蹈藝術家。Daniel亦認同演藝不應該太著眼於只表現傳統觀念的技巧能力。「學生都在表演勁度、轉圈、飛躍、伸展,把技巧量化,但這不會助長多元化的舞蹈創作。我明白在目前業界生態中,演藝學院的教育方針實屬無可避免,學生需要這些技巧讓他們畢業後教班,或以正規技巧參與商業演出;加上教育局對中小學的藝術教育規劃不詳,學生入讀演藝前也未必受過有系統的舞蹈訓練,單單在演藝四年時間,根本不足以培育出獨當一面的藝術家。」

 

楊春江;攝:Terry Tsang

 

 

另外,藝術發展政策一直只以場地硬件主導,由六十年代香港大會堂建成起始,政府心思只在建設場地,提供資助,然而場地落成的速度根本不可能應付每年本地畢業及海外回流的新力軍。舞者要勉強留在行業內,投身教育或許無可避免。

 

整體來說,政府的藝術發展政策無所作為一直為人詬病,尤其是肺炎一役。自一月底新型冠狀病毒疫情爆發,政府帶頭關閉表演藝術場館,幾近所有舞蹈演出都需要取消、延期,加上教育機構停課,無論個人工作者、團體或公司同樣面對巨大損失。抗疫基金杯水車薪,其審核準則更幾乎將自由身工作者以及藝術教育機構均排除在外。作為新任藝術發展局舞蹈組主席,Daniel直指政府並不知道怎樣幫助舞蹈業界。例如這次讓業界批評的$7500個人藝術工作者補助金,藝發局單以藝術範疇選民來計算持份者數字,然而很多藝術工作者、私人教學人員都沒有登記為選民。「現在藝發局就是以數字計算,六千幾個選民,撥一些作儲備,就只剩下這樣多(作補助金)。」

 

把疫情看成改變的契機

所謂「冰封三尺,非一日之寒」,上述的業界困境並不只因疫情而起,而是過去數十年日積月累而成。Daniel認同政府在藝術發展的政策思維沒有跟上行業實況,然而制度的更新永遠也比生態發展慢。業界要自救,先要改變目前行業生態。

 

首先,舞者需要有意識自己不只是在表演技巧,而是要運用技巧創作,成為一個「Dance Maker」(舞蹈創作人)。疫症是不可預料的,然而社會環境也好,藝術也好,總不可能一直不變,舞蹈創作人在技巧之外,最需要的是一種靈活性。「即使在香港必須『踩界』才能生存,每個人也要找到自己不同的模式去『踩界』。」這裡所指的「踩界」,是創作人需要懂得隨著生態轉變,突破自己框架去建構獨有的生存空間。這情況就像歐洲的馬戲藝術一樣,當動物馬戲被禁止,市場收窄,馬戲藝術家反而改變了表演的方式,揉合舞蹈或形體藝術的概念,於是不少馬戲藝術家也成為了編舞。「每一個世代也要重新定義他們對舞蹈的看法,令他們有一個新的身份。」Daniel如此概括道。

 

那麼,這個世代的舞蹈藝術該如何改變?這需要靠舞蹈創作人的欲望驅動探索。他以自己的經歷為例,Daniel出身自視覺藝術訓練,受「逃出畫廊」文化運動思潮影響,即以非固定、主流想像的空間創作為觀念,因此他傾向創作非正式舞台、非正統的舞蹈作品。同樣地,今時今日當創作人希望擺脫政府場地不足的局限,有人主動接洽社區中心、製作公司商議合作;又或者當去年區議會選舉帶來全新氣象,有人提出如何善用區議會的資源,讓舞蹈藝術也在地區的其他文娛場所「遍地開花」;或大膽嘗試以更另類的戶外地方作演出實驗。這些場地每場觀眾人數或許比正規舞台少,卻可接觸到更多類型的觀眾,打開新市場。除了現實世界的場地,Daniel也有提出近來坊間團體紛紛嘗試採用的網絡平台。這些平台可觸及面廣,而且門檻低,人人也可有自己的發表頻道,可見舞蹈藝術形式和應用方法將有無限可能性。

 

楊春江;攝:Terry Tsang

 

除了創作人主動以藝術創作求變,Daniel亦希望制度能追上藝術家作出改善。這也是他出選藝發局舞蹈界民選委員的原因之一。他形容民選委員是一個十分「吃力不討好」的位置——它是一份義務性質的工作,沒有工資並要自資經費來参予每項工作,而基於利益衝突原則下,委員在三年任期內也不能獲得藝發局任何資助。因此即使同樣受肺炎影響而幾近停工,他並不獲抗疫基金補助。然而他希望承傳前任委員梅卓燕的使命,繼續於體制內推動政策改革。「改革需要很長時間,你先要和政府周旋一兩年,可能到第三年才開始實施;藝發局三年一屆,那些計劃不可能一兩屆就完成。」長遠而言,他也希望業界有更多人願意走出來,登記成為選民,參與政策推動。「只有我們每一個人都走出來,在不同崗位上做些事情,業界用自己的方法重新定義藝術的應用,決策者推動制度隨著生態改善,上下一起做,才有機會真正改善現有生態。」他如是說。

 

四季總有寒冬,縱然現時舞蹈界「無市、無客、無環境」,Daniel希望每個人也可積極行動,找志同道合的人,突破現有的界限去尋找新的出口。改變之路艱辛而漫長,但只有持之以恆地行動,香港舞蹈界自會有新轉機。

 

 

 

 

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文:袁潔敏
劇場評論及戲劇構作碩士,現職藝術行政,亦有參與戲劇創作。

[ENG] Redefining Hong Kong dance for this generation

-- An interview with Daniel Yeung

Original Text: Yuen Kit Man

 

 

Shortly after he took up his new role as Chairman of Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC) Dance Group, we sat down with Daniel Yeung to hear his thoughts on the industry’s current hardships and his hopes for future change.

 

The tangled dilemma for the Hong Kong dance industry

Yeung believes that the most important dilemma that the Hong Kong dance industry faces is not the current suspension of classes and events due to the Covid-19 epidemic, but the long-term difficulties of developing the art of dance in Hong Kong. After completion of their professional training, dancers spend most of their time working in dance education and commercial productions, or even take part time jobs unrelated to dance in order to make a living. He describes this taking of non-artistic jobs to support the development of a career as an artist as ‘crossing the line’.

 

The reality is no one can support themselves in Hong Kong by working solely as an independent dance artist. Dancers receive professional training and learn to create art - if they then have to spend most of their time putting together dance routines for primary and secondary students and focusing their attention on taking care of them, that means, says Yeung, that they are: ‘sewing bridal dresses for others’. Teaching does not necessarily inspire dance artists to create high quality artistic work and may make it difficult for them to explore and develop a unique vocabulary and style. And while they may be able to take part in commercial performances, that experience may also not be helpful when it comes to creating their own original work.

 

From his observations, there are many reasons leading to the imbalance of the dance ecosystem. On the one hand, for many years, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) has been criticized for functioning as a vocational training institute which puts the emphasis on teaching dance technique rather than on nurturing dance artists. Yeung agrees that HKAPA should not concentrate only on traditional dance techniques. “Students are focusing on technique based on power, turns, jumps and extensions and measuring their skills. This does not foster a diversity of choreography. Yet in the current industry’s ecosystem, HKAPA’s direction is unavoidable. Students need these techniques to teach and to perform in commercial shows after graduating. Besides, owing to the government’s failure to provide properly planned arts education in primary and secondary schools, students might not have undergone any systematic dance training before entering HKAPA. Four years at the academy is far from sufficient to nurture an independent artist."

 

Daniel Yeung ; Photo: Terry Tsang

 

The government’s arts development policies have always focused on performance venues – in other words, hardware – ever since City Hall was established in the 1960s. The government knows to build venues and provide subsidies, but the construction of venues does not keep pace with the increase in the number of artists, including each year’s crop of local graduates as well as artists returning from overseas. For dancers to stay within the industry, they have no choice but to work in education.

 

In general, the lack of effectiveness of the government’s arts development policies has always been widely criticized, and the government has faced even stronger complaints during the Covid-19 epidemic. Since the outbreak began in Hong Kong in late January, the government has closed all performance venues, causing almost all dance performances to be cancelled or postponed. With schools also closed and classes suspended, many individuals, organizations and companies in the dance sector have been left facing huge losses.

 

The Arts and Culture Sector Subsidy Scheme from the government’s anti-epidemic fund is an inadequate measure - the assessment criteria adopted pretty much rule out either freelancers or arts education organizations benefiting from the fund. As the new Chairman of HKADC Dance Group, Yeung says that the government simply does not know the right way to help the dance industry. For example, HKADC came up with the $7,500 subsidy for individual arts practitioners (something that was criticized by the whole arts industry), based on the number of registered voters in the Performing Arts sub-sector. However, many artists and private tutors who are arts sector stakeholders are not registered voters. “the HKADC calculates with the figure of around six thousand voters. So that’s how much [subsidy each gets] after saving some for reserve.”

 

See the epidemic as a turning point for change

As the Chinese saying goes, ‘It takes more than one cold day for a river to freeze three feet deep’. The dance sector’s difficulties don’t just arise from the Covid-19 crisis, but from longstanding problems which have been building up for decades. Yeung agrees that the government's policy thinking on arts development has not kept up with the industry's situation, but the system always lags behind the development of the ecosystem. The industry needs to take the initiative and start by changing its own ecosystem.

 

First and foremost, dancers have to be aware that their role is not just to perform technique, but to use their technique to create and to become ‘Dance Makers’. Epidemics are unforeseeable, yet no matter the social environment, artists cannot remain unchanged. The most important thing dance makers need, second to technique, is flexibility. “Even though it is inevitable to ‘cross the line’ to survive in Hong Kong, everyone should find their own way of ‘crossing the line’.” Here, ‘crossing the line’ means that artists need to change according to the ecosystem, to break through themselves to find their own unique role. Yeung compares this situation to what happened to circuses in Europe. When animal acts were banned, the market shrank, so circus artists changed their form of performance to combining concepts of dance and physical theatre, with many circus artists becoming choreographers. “Every generation has to redefine dance and to build a new identity for themselves.” Yeung concludes.

 

So, how should dance for this generation change? This exploration needs to be driven by dance makers’ own personal aspirations. Yeung raises his own experience, as a dancer with visual arts background, as an example. As a visual artist, he is influenced by the ideological concept of “creation beyond galleries”, the concept where creative works happen in non-fixed spaces, supported by collective imagination. Hence, he tends to create unconventional dance works in unconventional performance spaces. Similarly, when artists seek to overcome the insufficiency of government-owned venues, some have taken the initiative to reach out to community centres and production companies for collaboration. After the turning of a new page with the landslide victory of the pan-democratic camp in the District Council elections last year, people raised the question of how to make good use of the District Councils’ resources to allow the art of dance to blossom in cultural recreation venues in every district. Yeung has even heard of artists baldly holding experimental performances in alternative outdoor settings. Although these venues have a smaller audience capacity for each show, they allow performers to come into contact with different kinds of audiences, opening up new markets. Aside from actual performance venues, Yeung also points out that many organizations now experiment with online platforms. These platforms have high accessibility and low barriers, providing everyone with channels to express themselves. This shows that dance as an art form and its applications have limitless possibilities.

 

Daniel Yeung ; Photo: Terry Tsang

 

In addition to artists proactively changing the scene with their work, Yeung also hopes that the system can improve to catch up with artists - that was one of the reasons he decided to run for HKADC Dance Group Elected Member. He says that taking office as an Elected Member is an arduous and thankless task. It is voluntary and pro bono in nature, with expenses for each work task being self-financed, and due to conflict of interest, it means his own work cannot be subsidized by HKADC during his three years term of office. Therefore, even though his livelihood is affected by the epidemic just like everybody else, he cannot receive any subsidy from HKADC. Nonetheless he still wishes to carry on the mission of his predecessor as Elected Member, Mui Cheuk Yin, and strive to bring about change from within the system. “Change needs time. First you have to spend one to two years dealing with the government, then changes might start to be implemented in the third year. An HKADC term lasts for three years, yet some plans cannot be fulfilled in one or even two terms.” In the long run, he hopes that more people from the industry will come forward to register as voters, and participate in policy-making. “Only when we all come forward and play our parts – so that the industry finds its way to redefine the application of arts and policymakers drive the system to be more in sync with the ecosystem – can we truly improve the situation.”, he says.

 

Winter is always one of the four seasons. Even though the dance industry is currently facing a bleak situation with “no market, no customers, no positive environment”, Yeung urges everyone to be active and gather like-minded people to break through the existing boundaries in search of new ways out. The road to change is long and arduous, but if we continue to take action and don’t give up, Hong Kong’s dance industry will take a turn for the better.

 

 

 

 

 

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(English Translation by Tiffany Wong)

Text:Yuen Kit Man

M.A. in Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy, currently an arts administrator and participant in drama production

 

 

 

 

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