曹德寶作品《順》Hugo Cho’s Along; 攝Photo: Eric Hong
From martial arts tournaments in ancient times to present-day contests, the champion is prized for their exceptional skills and talents. In early January, a three-day dance festival, Hong Kong Dance Exchange (HDX), was held in Hong Kong. Eight Hong Kong choreographers brought audiences eight dance works, hoping to charm producers and curators from Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea and win a chance to perform on international stages. Local audiences who missed those productions on their first runs or who just wanted to see them again seized the chance to appreciate these outstanding productions. “These eminent chorographic works form the focal point of the festival, as they are pivotal in making Hong Kong stand out,” HDX Festival Director Daniel Yeung asserts.
一月五至七日，香港大會堂劇院及展覽廳舉行合共六場當代舞演出，節目選自香港、台灣、日本及南韓四地，香港編舞作品代表包括黃俊達的《輕飄飄》、邱加希的《睇我唔到》及《純生》、曹德寶的《順》、李偉能的《回聲摺疊》、莫嫣的《A Major Clown in G-Flat》、白濰銘的《900”》，以及毛維與黃翠絲的《地圖》。
HDX presented six shows of contemporary dance at the Theatre and Exhibition Hall of Hong Kong City Hall from 5 to 7 January. Programs were selected from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. Productions from Hong Kong included Très léger by Ata Wong Chun-tat, Remain Invisible and Unmixed by KT Yau, Along by Hugh Cho, Folding Echoes by Joseph Lee, A Major Clown in G-Flat by Jennifer Mok, 900" by Ming Pak, and Mapping by Mao Wei and Tracy Wong.
這批編舞近年都非常活躍，而且其獲選作品亦是廣受關注，屢獲好評，再加上分別由台灣圓桌舞蹈計劃、日本當代舞蹈網絡、福崗舞蹈藝穗節及南韓New Dance for Asia國際舞蹈節等平台引介的作品，這構成了香港比舞的輪廓，亦連結起亞洲當代舞發展的網絡。
The eight Hong Kong choreographers have been very active in recent years. With the selection of their well-known creations, as well as works introduced by Dance Round Table Project from Taiwan, Japan Contemporary Dance Network, Fukuoka Dance Fringe Festival, and NDA International Festival, Seoul, the line-up of HDX was in place, creating a network of contemporary dance development in Asia.
Yeung was able to organize HDX with support from the Arts Capacity Development Funding Scheme of the Home Affairs Bureau. The event was an experiment for Yeung, as there was neither an existing model to follow nor any expectation of successful outcomes. Productions formed the core of the experiment. “Outstanding choreography deserves more audiences.” The eight local choreographic works in HDX were all re-runs; yet, in this showing they represented Hong Kong to “compete with dances from other countries”.
香港比舞閉幕HDX Closing; 攝Photo: Cheung Chi Wai
Arts Festival Network in Asia
The origin of HDX can be traced to an investigation by Yeung overseas. “Supported by the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, I went to Europe and South Korea to learn about their networking. The development in Europe is admirable while South Korea has also been rapidly developing its networking in recent years.” During his research, Yeung realized that Hong Kong had to “catch up”, and he became assertive that Hong Kong needed to develop its own model. “We cannot simply follow the success of other countries. For instance, interaction between Japan and South Korea has been very frequent. Other than joining them, Hong Kong has to think about how to further connect with Taiwan, Singapore, and more places.”
“In the history of contemporary dance development, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea have shared similar experiences, such as mistaking westernization for internationalization. After strengthening interaction with neighboring regions, these places have made a self-rediscovery and gradually evolved an Asia-centered cultural development.” Yeung expects HDX to be the first step for Hong Kong to establish long-term collaboration with its Asian neighbors. “On one hand, we promote our best productions; on the other hand, we welcome regional partners to come to Hong Kong. With its favorable location, Hong Kong can become the intermediary to reinforce connection with Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and other countries.” Yeung chose arts festivals in Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea to tryout as partners for HDX.
“Since this is the first trial, our choices have to be safe and convincing.” HDX had a program selection panel to choose locally acclaimed productions. Industry practitioners from West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Hong Kong Arts Development Council, and Hong Kong Dance Alliance constituted the local panel. The overseas panel was made up of four representatives from arts festivals in Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. “By setting up the panel, we hoped to avoid having a ‘Daniel Yeung Arts Festival’ and increasing the representativeness of the event, bringing possibilities even beyond my imagination.”
When he drafted the event proposal, Yeung expected the “best result” of HDX was that four arts festival networks would respectively select four Hong Kong productions to be performed overseas. Surprisingly, the results were much better. In the end, seven works would tour abroad; in spite of a lack of resources, the organizers were eager to bring their audiences Hong Kong productions by proposing different solutions. “This proves that people will naturally show appreciation if the production is good.”
After the ostensible ‘contest’, Yeung has received ‘letters of challenge’ from representatives of arts festivals in Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, and other countries. He is excited about the possibility of them joining the network in the future. “The response is exhilarating as it reflects the achievements of our work.”
Outstanding choreography deserves more audiences."
New Audiences for Outstanding Works
Although the eight local works were re-runs, they were not quite the same as they were in their first incarnation. “Re-running is not equivalent to re-doing; it is a process for continuous development.” Yeung hopes to get rid of the notion that “a production ends with its première”. He is not satisfied with only letting the same audiences “watch the performance again” in a re-run, rather, in the future, he intends to find new audiences for outstanding productions that can lead to their further refinement.
With full confidence in the eight local productions, Yeung encouraged his team to invite friends who rarely go to contemporary dance performance. “Only by selecting outstanding productions can we look for new audiences and counterbalance the ‘emphasis on quantity’ in the industry. Over-production leads to unsatisfactory quality of productions and diminishes chances to see good work. As a result, people get the impression that there are no high-quality dances in Hong Kong.” Although HDX appears as if it is an art market that gives productions an opportunity to be performed on international stages, it also targets reaching a wider dance audience in Hong Kong.
HDX aims to present prominent Hong Kong productions to both the usual and new audiences. If the experiment can continue, Yeung hopes that it can become a new paradigm for the dance industry in Hong Kong. “We can work on our dances with a clear target, to represent Hong Kong to conduct exchanges with dance practitioners in the region by joining festivals. Audiences can also regard the platform as an indicator for ‘dance selection’ and ‘dance appreciation’, understanding more about the development of local and international contemporary dance.”
Evaluation follows the successful close of the festival. Yeung thinks that many details are worthy of serious consideration, particularly “the meaning of a re-run", which many believe has been sufficiently examined. “Choreographers acquire an opportunity to develop their works and rediscover their relationship between choreography, audience, and the stage.” When we review the eight local works, it is not difficult for us to observe reflection on the essence of the works, ways of performance, and utilization of theatrical space. The re-runs are in fact, premières.
"每樣事情都是創作，教書、宣傳、舉辦藝術節都是一次創作。Everything is a creation. Teaching, promoting and organizing a festival are forms of creation."
楊春江，香港比舞藝術節總監Daniel Yeung, Festival Director of Hong Kong Dance Exchange;
圖片由受訪者提供Photo provided by interviewee
Arts Festival As Creation
As a dancer, choreographer, dance educator, and dance critic, Yeung has participated in numerous arts festivals around the world in different capacities. With a change in role, how did he take advantage of his strengths and organize a gratifying art festival? “I am an artist who regards everything as creation. Teaching and promoting are forms of creation, let alone organizing a festival.”
He gives us an example of re-invention: to facilitate sharing and exchange, his team turned City Hall’s Exhibition Hall into a performance space with a spacious anteroom, providing a place for gathering of choreographers, dancers, producers, curators, and audience.
In spite of positive comments, Yeung will not use the space for the next HDX. “Repetitions are pointless when it comes to creation. This is also applicable to organizing arts festivals, as I am not content with reproductions.” On the contrary, he expects exploration of other possible venues to enrich arts festivals.
Will there be another HDX? Yeung is considering the possibility and looking for resources for the next festival. Other than thinking about spaces, Yeung is also exploring new ways to enlarge audiences. Regardless of the differences in style, the core spirit remains unchanged—being production-centered. According to Yeung, “Changing times, social grievances, political controversies, and declining competitiveness have blurred Hong Kong’s characteristics. We have to put much more effort into discovering new objects and saving outstanding ones. Nothing is more important than allowing Hong Kong to be understood through its exceptional productions.”