Moha; Choreographer: Jennifer Mok; Dancers: (from left) Kaspy Ma, KT Yau Ka-hei, Pansy Lo;
Hong Kong Dance Alliance produced a double bill programme again under the New Force in Motion (NFiM) Series, with Gabbie Chan’s Lördagsgodis and Jennifer Mok’s Moha at the Black Box Theatre of Kwai Tsing Theatre from 28th to 30th September.
Lördagsgodis is about memory loss. Cyrus Hui begins centre stage with a dramatically expressive phrase of struggling movement. Another dancer, Chan Lok-hin, joins in at the corner after a blackout, and cheers up the atmosphere. Wearing a similar costume, Lok-hin acts like a younger Cyrus, the motifs of looking back and counting gestures drawing the trace that connects the two. Through blackout after blackout, music piece after music piece, the work is split into fragments, and this fragmented structure emulates the characteristic of memory. But the work remains unfragmented after all: the Black Box Theatre cannot be entirely blacked out, and the abrupt changes of music and dramatic expression become peculiar when the performance is not visually discrete. For example, when Lok-in stands in a downstage corner diagonally looking back for several times, he is supposed to be looking into darkness in search of the older him. The audience can clearly see Cyrus under the bright “Exit” sign, while Lok-hin acts like he cannot see him. The belief of memory loss needs to be established for the feelings of emptiness and helplessness to be conveyed, and I left the theatre for the intermission with disappointment at the scene changes.
Lördagsgodis feels like a longer short piece. Yet, if it can be more concise, why is it longer?
Lördagsgodis; Choreographer: Gabbie Chan; Dancer: (from left) Chan Lok-hin, Cyrus Hui;
Moha is based on the choreographer’s experience of emotional blackmail. The lighting and music choices build up the dynamic of the work, integrating with the direct and brutal movements of physical contact. However, the brutal movements, such as Pansy Lo’s slamming against the wooden wall, look too controlled, so that the impact is less convincing. The tin bucket in the downstage corner is an essential prop, determining the direction of the three dancers. In a brilliantly twisting section, Pansy Lo and KT Yau dance ballet and K-Pop movements in front of Kaspy, blocking his way towards the bucket. This injects an amusing moment before pushing the piece to the climax. The last one-third of the work ends hastily and the intention as to why the dancers coat themselves with the “mud” from the troughs remains unclear.
Moha has the potential to be longer. Yet, if it can be longer, why is it shorter?
Another Platform for Short Pieces?
The NFiM Series was established in 2009. It has been an important platform for young choreographers to create their first full-length works, around 45 minutes or above. Last year, Hong Kong Dance Alliance seemed to change tack and produced a double bill under NFiM comprising Rex Cheng’s Solitary and KT Yau’s Unmixed. The latter work received positive reviews and also invitations from overseas festivals. That this year’s production is again a double bill perhaps signals a change in the positioning of the series, and it no longer feels like a platform for young choreographers to create full-length work.
There are quite a few platforms for presenting short pieces, such as the Hong Kong Jockey Club Contemporary Dance Series in the Hong Kong Arts Festival, and platforms offered by local dance companies like E-Side Dance Company. Do we need another platform for short works at the cost of full-length works?
It is true that short works are easier to be invited to overseas festivals, but touring opportunities should not trump the importance of cultivating young choreographers to create full-length works. The authorities and presenters seem to believe that if a choreographer can create an excellent short work, he or she can create a full-length dance piece. Yet, this is a fuzzy inference. In a short piece, the choreographer often focuses on a single idea and makes the concept clear and concise. On the other hand, the choreographer of a long piece requires a broader view, so that he or she is able to connect different parts into a whole. Good parts can go wrong when put together; seemingly unexceptional parts can amplify each other when the elements are connected in a beautiful structure. Good authors of short stories can write bad novels; likewise good choreographers of short pieces can make bad full-length works. The New Force in Motion Series was once an important cradle for nurturing local choreographers of full length works. I hope this will be revitalised.
M.Phil in Philosophy, specializing in Kant’s philosophy and aesthetics, a freelance writer and art administrator.
New Force in Motion Series: Lördagsgodis by Gabbie Chan & Moha by Jennifer Mok
Performance: 29 September 2018 20:00 Black Box Theatre, Kwai Tsing Theatre