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[中][ENG]香港芭蕾舞團行政總監李藹儀專訪 — 開拓網上節目:是危還是機? Interview with Heidi Lee, Executive Director of Hong Kong Ballet Branching out into online platforms: risk or opportunity?

[中]香港芭蕾舞團行政總監李藹儀專訪 —— 開拓網上節目:是危還是機?

文:尉瑋

 

新冠肺炎衝擊下,全世界的演藝活動陷入停擺。藝團們紛紛將目光轉向網上平台,或放映過往作品,或推出網絡節目,以維持與觀眾之間的聯繫。香港芭蕾舞團(港芭)也不例外。在舞團新上任不久的行政總監李藹儀看來,停擺,是危也是機,而網絡平台的善加利用,會為舞團帶來接觸觀眾的新渠道。

 

香港芭蕾舞團行政總監李藹儀;攝:Conrad Dy-Liacco(照片由香港芭蕾舞團提供)

 

「任何平台都是平台」自今年三月起,港芭藉由臉書及YouTube平台推出「港芭@家」(HKBALLET@HOME)系列網上節目,以類似電視頻道的方式,每周於不同固定時分、按主題放送不同內容。除了可以重溫舞團過往的演出片段外,還有一系列特別錄製的節目,例如由港芭藝術總監衛承天(Septime Webre)主持的清談節目「港芭講芭」、舞蹈員分享私家食譜及烹飪秘訣的「芭蕾廚房」、網上芭蕾課,以及揭秘芭蕾小知識的「芭蕾101」等,嘗試用親和有趣的方式讓觀眾走近港芭,看到芭蕾舞的另一面。

 

李說起此系列網上節目的策劃初衷,強調其中對港芭品牌塑造的注重。「以往我們也做了很多(網上節目的策劃),但是做了功夫外面卻好像不大知道。這次我就建議,必須要有『package』(包裝),要有『label』(標籤),幫我們去做『branding』(品牌)。我們做的不同嘗試,其目標都是要打造我們的品牌,『HKBALLET@HOME』這個名字就是Septime想的,非常好。」

 

「對表演藝術,任何平台都是平台。」對李而言,網上節目是在劇院關閉、演出暫停下維持舞團活躍度與觀眾粘性的必要之舉。它並非只是應對疫情的被動舉措,而更像是趁著這段停滯的時間,舞團有了機會去挖掘這個極具潛力的平台與渠道。「就算疫情結束,我們也會繼續,它會變成舞團下面的一個label。對內來說,我們的同事和團員有了一個平台去發揮創意;對外來說,它讓觀眾看到我們舞蹈員的不同面向。從中我也看到有商機,當我們發展這樣的平台或者頻道,可以和不同的產業有合作,我很看重這個方向,它的能見度會越來越高。」

 

舞蹈與多媒體的合作與映照並不是新事,藝團對於社交媒體的運用也並不陌生。然而正如李所言,以往的網上節目設計,大多基於配合舞團的新製作,例如作品要上演,就會拍攝相關的後台揭秘或者排練片段上載臉書。未來,她希望網上頻道的內容能有更闊更深的發展。「例如我們希望可以邀請不同界別的獨立藝術家來參與HKBALLET@HOME的創作,同時也可以給受疫情影響的藝術家創造工作機會。門檻也低,舞台上的合作有很多成本,現在有這個網上平台和品牌,則有更多的可能性和彈性。」至於媒體運用的技術方面的掣肘,反而激發參與者思考如何用更有創意的角度去呈現節目。「對舞者來說也是發展的機會,」她說,「例如我們的芭蕾導師江上悠,就非常雀躍,自己去學剪輯,未來會有一條與團員一起跳舞的片子,很有趣。[1]」

 

「港芭@家」- 港芭廚房「Nana 廚房」;舞者:(由左)酒井那奈、卡諾意;照片由香港芭蕾舞團提供

 

 

線上與線下

一場廝殺?然而網上節目自然有其限制,例如,與受眾間難以打破的隔膜。「『online』(線上)和『on-site』(現場)的區別到底是什麼呢?」李說,「這正好給我們機會去回想,做表演藝術的我們,原本的初衷就是在劇場做表演。那當劇場的形式沒有之後,表演藝術還能帶來什麼呢?我始終覺得最核心的仍然是舞台上的作品和當下的體驗,那個和觀眾之間的關係是不可替代的。而網上節目的限制就是你和觀眾的距離。」

 

然而隨著拍攝與製作的愈發精細,線上與線下到底是相輔相成還是互相搶奪觀眾?討論愈發熾烈。從早年英國國家劇院現場(National Theatre Live)進軍戲院,到現在世界各大藝團紛紛開放線上資源,一時網上演出資源如井噴湧現,令人目不暇接。這讓人難免顧慮,劇場的現場體驗果真是不可替代的嗎?習慣了在線上媒體看演出後,觀眾是否還想入劇場?

 

李卻覺得,可以反由另一個角度看問題。「它讓我們去想,創作人還是必須要做好作品,作品好,才可以去競爭。如果作品夠好,整個擺上網,只會讓人看完後覺得一定還要進劇場去看一次。就像韓劇《愛的迫降》,如果現在說要做一個舞台版,你看不看?當然看啦,雖然劇情你早就看過了。本身作品好,就會吸引觀眾,他會想要親身去體驗震撼。」

 

疫情衝擊下,就算紐約或是倫敦等表演藝術重鎮的演藝活動也一樣陷入停擺,某種意義上說很「公平」。現在香港疫情放緩,有可能比外國更快恢復演出,「但就算劇場重開,是不是代表我們會比美國、英國更加吸引觀眾湧進劇場呢?最後始終是講回作品本身。當這麼公平時,很容易就看到作品本身的優劣。當所有的東西在網上都可以看到的時候,就像是去吃自助,大家可自由選擇。就拿香港本地來說,當這麼多的團大家都在網上看過其過往的演出,那當劇場重開時,作為一個新觀眾,你會選擇哪個團呢?(作品的質量)變得無所遁形。」

 

好作品永遠是王道。香港的原創作品仍不夠強韌,「如果他選『Netflix』[2]而不是進劇場,一定是我們的作品出了問題。創作人有多在意觀眾,他能不能夠『approach』(接觸)到觀眾,他的作品有多震撼、多感動,或多和我們的生活相關……這是我們要思考的。所以我覺得這是好事,能刺激大家精進作品。」

 

那擔心觀眾的流失嗎?

 

「當然會,網上資源那麼方便,又那麼便宜,難免讓人擔憂。」李說,「這讓我們反思,但你在做網上平台的時候,究竟怎麼利用這個渠道。比如我們就希望反轉芭蕾高高在上的形象,讓大家看到舞蹈員的另一面,而不是搬字過紙,只是將以前的演出擺出來。這也可能是一個契機,讓我們接觸新的觀眾。例如現在的年輕人喜歡宅在家,習慣了看網上平台,通過這個途徑他瞭解了舞團,可能反而有興趣來看演出。另外舊的觀眾會不會再回來呢?就要看作品是否能讓他期待再次獲得感動。這裡面很看我們每一個部門怎麼利用平台來做事情。」

 

「WearDance」《綴邊》 ;編舞:江上悠;時裝設計師:冼美玉;照片由香港芭蕾舞團提供

 

後疫情時代

剛剛履新,就要面對疫情突襲。但李認為這並不會影響她對舞團目標的踐行。在她看來,從事表演藝術就是時刻面臨危機管理,「隨時準備好『Plan B』(B計劃)」。只是相比較演出中斷等突發事故,應對疫情,需要更長遠的鋪排與計劃。

 

例如疫情緩和後的演出重啟,她有自己的看法:寧願晚一點,也要「一擊即中」;要開放就要全線開放,只開放部分觀眾席的做法對行業來說並非良策。「四、五個月沒有進劇場了,到時重開,結果進到劇場中還是冷冷清清,很可能他以後就不選擇進來了。第一下的印象非常重要,因為劇場就是當下的體驗,那個感覺是沒得分析的。很開心地來看兒童劇,結果是冷清的兒童劇,那他可能覺得不如去商場或者反斗城玩一下,小朋友更開心。這個第一下真的要很小心,一定要有人走出來做一個全部開放的正常的『show』(節目),以此來做一個試點。」

 

談到未來的工作藍圖,李說首先最想做的,就是給舞團找到一個「家」。「特別疫情的關係,我們顯得很被動。我們不像香港舞蹈團、香港話劇團或者香港中樂團,有個地方,起碼可以讓幾個人分批回來上課,我們現在則沒有地方。一個四十多年的團沒有自己的地方,這真的有點荒謬。」其次,她也希望西九能夠給港芭和CCDC提供多些場地的支持。再而,能促成與商界更廣泛的合作。「去年的『WearDance』是和『fashion』(時裝界)合作,去商場;『這是灣仔』則和設計中心、港鐵等合作。反響都不錯。」

 

但她最著力的,是打造港芭的品牌,建立舞團的身分(identity)。

 

「HKBALLET@HOME已經有這樣的作用了——我們是高水準的芭蕾舞蹈團,而我們歡迎觀眾來親近我們。」她眼中港芭的「identity」是什麼?雖然「本土化」一詞被說得濫了,但香港獨特的文化因子的確是舞團的獨有特質。如同衛承天的新作《羅密歐+茱麗葉》,就將背景設置在六十年代的香港。這種設置無疑凸顯港芭的香港基因,「去大陸也好,去外國也好,都會讓你顯現出來。比如外面要邀請一個團去跳《吉賽爾》,很多團都可以選擇,但是要去跳香港六十年代的《羅密歐與朱麗葉》,就是香港芭蕾舞團獨有的。」

 

除此之外,李也透露港芭有意在未來打造自己的訓練中心,並且會和香港演藝學院及其他芭蕾學校合作,系統培育高素質的新梯隊舞蹈員。至於細節,仍在商討中。

 

 

 

[1]有關影片已於5月14日上線:https://bit.ly/2LZkJSZ

[2]編按:「Netflix」為提供電影和電視節目的網路串流平台。

==

文:尉瑋

文化記者,愛舞之人。

[ENG] Interview with Heidi Lee, Executive Director of Hong Kong Ballet

Branching out into online platforms: risk or opportunity?

Original Text: Wei Wei

 

 

COVID-19 has stopped live performances worldwide. Arts organizations and companies have resorted to online platforms where they either play recordings of past performances or launch online programmes to maintain their connection with the audience. Hong Kong Ballet (HKB) is no exception in this respect. In the opinion of Heidi Lee, who has just taken over as the company’s new Executive Director, the hiatus represents risk, but at the same time opportunity, where making good use of online platforms can bring in new ways to approach the audience.

(From left) Paul Tam, Former Executive Director of Hong Kong Ballet; Cherry Wong, Assistant Project Director of WearDance; Heidi Lee, Executive Director of Hong Kong Ballet; Septime Webre, Artistic Director of Hong Kong Ballet; Photo provided by Hong Kong Ballet

 

“Any platform is a platform”

Since March this year, HKB has launched HKBALLET@HOME, a series of online shows divided into different themes, on both Facebook and YouTube, aired at various regular timeslots each week like TV. Apart from past performances, there is also a series of special programmes, such as Ballet Blahblahblah, a talk show hosted by artistic director Septime Webre, Ballerino Chef in which company dancers share their personal recipes and cooking tips, online ballet classes and Ballet 101 where they talk about some less-known aspects of ballet. HKB tries to minimise the distance between the audience and the company, and enable them to see the other side of ballet with an easy and friendly approach.

 

Lee stressed that the objective of making online programmes was to reshape the image of Hong Kong Ballet. “We did lots of planning on online programmes before, but the public rarely knew about this part of HKB. This time, I suggested that we must have a ‘package’ and a ‘label’ for branding. We tried different names for this new branding of HKB. The title ‘HKBALLET@HOME’ was coined by Septime. It’s a really good name.” Lee explains.

 

“For the performing arts, any platform is a platform.” To Lee, making online programmes was a crucial move to maintain HKB’s vitality and retain a connection with the audience despite theatres being closed and performances put on hold. This was not a reactive measure to counter the pandemic, but rather an opportunity for HKB to take advantage of the outbreak to explore a potentially promising platform and channel. “Even after the pandemic is over, we will continue with the online programmes. This will become one of our company’s labels. Internally, it gives my colleagues and our dance team a platform to showcase their creativity. Externally, the platform allows our audience to see our dancers from a variety of angles. I can also see a business opportunity coming from this. When we develop online platforms or channels, we can work together with different industries. I have a high expectation in this regard, as exposure for online platforms is continuously increasing.” Lee comments.

 

It’s not new for dance to collaborate with multimedia nor for arts companies to make use of social media. However, as Lee says, in the past online programmes were based on the company’s new productions. For example, when a production was coming up, they would film some behind-the-scenes or rehearsal footage and upload the clips onto Facebook. In future, Lee hopes that the content of their online channel can be more diverse and in depth. “We want to invite independent artists from different fields to participate in the making of HKBALLET@HOME. This will also provide artists affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with working opportunities. The barrier to collaborating online is much lower, as collaborations in stage production involves a number of costs. With an online platform and a brand on the internet, there are more possibilities and greater flexibility,” she points out. Regarding the limitations when using media technologies, the production team is encouraged to think how to use more creative angles to present the programmes. “It’s a personal development opportunity for the dance artists. One of our ballet masters, Yuh Egami, is very keen and has learned editing by himself. He’s creating a video showing all our dancers working from home, which will be very interesting, [1]” Lee says.

 

HKBALLET@HOME - Barre Class Online - Pre-Beginner class; Dancers: (from left) Leung Saulong, Stella Chang, Alice Fung; Photo provided by Hong Kong Ballet

 

Does “online” compete with “offline”?

Online programmes have limitations, such as the barrier to getting close to the audience. “What is the difference between ‘online’ and ‘on-site’?” Lee asks. “This is a good opportunity for all of us working in performing arts to reflect on the reasons why we perform in theatres in the first place. When the form -- the theatre -- is gone, what else can performing arts bring us? I still think that the core of what we do is the work on stage and the immediacy of that live experience, where the relationship between audience and performers is irreplaceable. The limitation with online platforms is the physical distance between the performers and the audience,” she reflects.

 

However, as shooting and production become ever more refined, are “online” and “offline” complementing each other or vying with each other for audience? The debate on this is getting heated. From early on when the first National Theatre Live in the UK season entered cinemas, to the opening up of online resources by major arts companies worldwide, new ways to watch arts shows online are springing up, suddenly offering viewers an abundance of choice of dance performances to watch. This raises a question as to whether the live experience in theatres is really irreplaceable. After getting used to watching performances online, will the audience still want to go to the theatre?

 

Lee doesn’t see it like that and approaches the matter from a different angle. “The question enables us to think in this way: artists must work to a high standard so as to compete with others. If the work is good enough and is then shown online, it will give viewers a reason to watch it again in the theatre. Like the Korean TV drama, Crash Landing on You, if now we say we will do a stage production of the show, will you want to see it? Certainly yes, even though you are already familiar with the plot. If the work is good in itself, it will pull in audiences. They will want to see the drama in the form of a theatre show to have the experience of a live performance.”

 

The pandemic has suspended activities even in major performing arts hubs such as New York or London, which is fair in a way. The situation in Hong Kong is now improving and arts performances may resume sooner here than in western countries. “Even if the theatres re-open here, does this mean we can get more audiences in theatres in Hong Kong than that in the US and the UK? When performances are available online, it’s like going to a buffet, people can choose whatever they want to eat. In Hong Kong, people have already watched most past productions by various companies. When the theatres open again, as a new theatre-goer, which company would you go for? In the end, it’s always about the quality of the work itself.” Lee points out.

 

High quality works are always the key. Original choreography from Hong Kong is still not strong enough. “If a person chooses Netflix[2] over theatre shows, there must be something wrong with our work. Artists are concerned with the audience, specifically whether he or she can reach the audience. How evocative and moving is his/her work? How does relate to our daily lives? These are the questions we have to bear in mind. I think it’s good to have online platforms because it motivates us to refine our work.”

 

Is HKB worried about losing audience?

 

“Yes, definitely. Online resources are cheap and convenient, which is quite worrying,” Lee admits. “This makes us reflect on how we can make effective use of online platforms. For example, we hope to revive the prestigious image of ballet and unveil another side of ballet dancers, instead of just uploading videos of past performances. This also gives us a chance to reach out to new audiences. Nowadays, young people like staying home and are used to watching online channels. Through online platforms, youngsters can get to know about HKB and thus may be interested to see the company perform on stage. Also, will the old audience come back? It depends on whether the works excite and move them. This is down to how every department of HKB makes use of the platforms.”

WearDance - Variation in sneakers; Choreographer: Jessica Burrows; Fashion Designer: Yeung Chin; Dancers (from left): Leung Saulong, Erica Wang, Zhang Xuening; Photo provided by Hong Kong Ballet

 

Post-Pandemic era

Immediately after taking up her new post, Lee has had to cope with the setbacks of the pandemic, but does not see this as an impediment to the implementation of her plans for HKB. In her opinion, working in the performing arts is about coping with crises all the time. “We always have a ‘Plan B’ to fall back on,” she says. However, compared to dealing with unexpected accidents such as performances being interrupted, crisis management in the midst of the pandemic calls for a long-term plan.

 

In the wake of the pandemic when shows can be staged again, Lee prefers to aim high, even if it means coming back a bit later. She hopes that theatres will be open for full audiences. Opening with only partial attendance permitted is not ideal for the dance sector. “After a closure of over four months, the audience would rather see a full house than a quiet theatre when we open again. Otherwise, they will never come back. First impressions are important. Theatre-going is a transitory experience for the audience. The feeling is nuanced, subtle and hard to pin down. Imagine people with children go to see a kids show but end up in a dead, half empty theatre. They would rather go to a mall or Toys"R"Us and have real fun with their kids. Thus, we have to take this first impression seriously. Someone must step up and give a normal, fully attended dance performance to be the trailblazer.”

 

Regarding plans for the future, first and foremost Lee wants to find a “home” for HKB. “The pandemic has forced us to be passive and reactive. Companies like Hong Kong Dance Company, Hong Kong Repertory Theatre or Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra have premises where their artists can come to work in small groups. It’s ridiculous that we, as a 40-year-old dance company, still don’t have our own premises.” Secondly, she hopes that West Kowloon can provide more venue support for HKB and City Contemporary Dance Company. Thirdly, she anticipates more opportunities for the dance sector to work with the business sector. “Last year, we had a collaborative project, WearDance, with the fashion industry and make appearances in malls. This is Wan Chai was a project with the design centre and the MTR. Both had a good reception.”

 

Nevertheless, she wants to put her greatest effort into branding HKB and building up its identity.

 

HKBALLET@HOME has already established that we are a premier ballet company and that we welcome bringing the audience closer,” Lee says. What is the “identity” of HKB in her eyes? Although “localization” has become a cliché, the unique culture of Hong Kong is the essence of the company. In Septime Webre’s new work Romeo + Juliet, the setting is 1960s Hong Kong. This background embodies the Hong Kong DNA of HKB. “Whether going to Mainland China or abroad, this trait has to be present. For a performance of Giselle, presenters can choose from any number of companies. Only HKB can perform Romeo and Juliet set in Hong Kong in the 1960s.”

 

Apart from these aspirations, Lee also reveals that HKB is planning to have its own training centre, working with the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts and other ballet schools, with the aim of nurturing capable new dancers. Details are still under discussion.

 

 

 

 

[1]The video is available online from 14 May: https://bit.ly/2LZkJSZ

[2]Editor’s note: Netflix is an online streaming service showing films and TV shows.

 

===

(English Translation by Pomny Chu)

Text:Wei Wei

feature journalist, dance lover.

焦點 FOCUS (22-3): 幕上之舞 Dance on Screen

 

當世界各地的表演場地同時停擺,各大小舞團及舞者,除了積極地面對逆/疫境,繼續舞舞舞之外,同時也嘗試開拓其他渠道繼續創作並與觀眾聯繫,視頻網站和社交平台忽爾變成主舞台,屏幕上的舞蹈影像獲得了前所未有的高度關注。

 

其實以影像去呈現舞蹈這個概念一點也不新,早在電影發明之初已有舞蹈表演的拍攝,近二、三十年隨著影像拍攝器材越見輕巧易用,舞蹈影像在內容、形式及風格上就更見多元。乘著當下幕上/屏中舞蹈比舞台上的舞蹈更百花齊放,我們今期邀請了兩位本地舞蹈影像導演:黎宇文與黃漢樑,跟我們分享他們對「舞蹈影像」這個媒介的製作經驗及看法;而小息跨媒介創作室藝術總監陳冠而,就會從受眾的角度談談她對網上舞蹈節目策劃的一些觀察。

 

另一方面,上期「焦點」我們了解過城市當代舞蹈團如何在逆境中尋新路向,今期我們就聽聽香港芭蕾舞團新任行政總監李藹怡,如何善用社交媒體推廣芭蕾,令舞團在疫情影響下轉危為機。

 

While all performing venues remain closed, in the spirit of “keep dancing and carry on”, dance companies and artists all around the world are striving to explore new channels to keep creating new work as well as staying connected with their audiences. Video sharing and social media platforms have become popular stages for dance, and dance on screen is therefore getting the most attention it has ever had.

 

In fact, presenting dance with moving images is not a novel idea, there were movies on dance right after film had been invented. And in the past two to three decades, video shooting equipment has become more popular and easier to manage, resulting in a diversity of content, form and style in the dance film/video and screen dance genre.

 

In this issue, we have invited two local dance video directors, Maurice Lai and Wilfred Wong, to share their experiences in creating dance video works as well as their insights on this particular art form; while Chan Kwun Fee, the artistic director of Littlebreath Creative Workshop, will share her observations on online dance programme curation from an audience perspective.

 

In our previous issue we learned how City Contemporary Dance Company have found ways to keep dancing through hard times and in this issue we have an interview with Heidi Lee, the newly appointed executive director of Hong Kong Ballet. She will tell us her ideas about promoting ballet through social media, and how she sees innovative ways of putting dance on screen as a great opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

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