In the last issue, we reviewed the birth of dance journal/hk and the ups and downs during its infancy. In this issue, we will slowly shift the focus from former editors to a group whose great contributions are equally indispensable – writers and critics.
曹誠淵Willy Tsao; 攝Photo: WORLDWIDE DANCER PROJECT
To measure the success of a publication, apart from its editorial positioning, design and layout, the critical elements that keep readers coming back are the abundance of content and if writers actually have something to say. As in the previous article, the founding editor-in-chief Willy Tsao said that resources were so tight when he started dance journal/hk that he could not invite contributions from renown critics. Editors at the time had to write articles themselves. At the same time, they also tried to make use of their network and invite their friends in the industry to write for dance journal/hk. They were encouraged to share dance-related information or reviews of dances, out of their professional knowledge and unique perspective.
Susan Street with Tom Brown與白朗唐的合照；照片由受訪者提供 Photo provided by Susan Street
Another originator of the journal, Tom Brown said that performance reviews aside, feature articles were also a key pillar of dance journal/hk at the time. He recalled a few in-depth multi-part features by Tsao, including one analyzing the characteristics of Hong Kong dance, and another one looking at the value of contemporary dance. Brown said he’d forgotten the full content of the former article, but he could not forget Tsao’s identification of “lightness” as one of the characteristics of Hong Kong dance. It prompted Brown to write his own in-depth two-part article in the journal entitled “Things Said in Jest” on lightness in the works of leading Hong Kong choreographers. For Tsao’s latter article, Brown still thinks it’s worth contemplating. These two articles left a great impression on him.
Susan Street, the then Dean of Dance of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts (HKAPA), was invited to write three pieces in English about ballet when Brown was the editor-in-chief. Street said at the time, Brown strove to cover different dance genres in dance journal/hk, so he asked her to contribute articles about ballet. Based on her dissertation in her Master’s degree, she illustrated the history, features of classical ballet, and dug deep into its nature in her three-part series.
2000年，創刊人曹誠淵和編務助理及排版的黃翠玲獲頒香港舞蹈年獎，頒獎嘉賓為費明儀（中）。Founder of dance journal/hk Willy Tsao and Scarlet Wong, who was responsible in design and layout, receiving Hong Kong Dance Awards in 2000 from Barbara Fei (Center) for their efforts.
2000年，在學時A-Hock (Center)（左）與同學Scarlet Yu代表香港演藝學院舞蹈學院在「香港舞蹈年獎」上領獎。In 2000, Ah-Hock and his colleague Scarlet Yu represented the School of Dance, HKAPA to receive Hong Kong Dance Award.
For the Malaysian Aaron Khek Ah Hock, who was studying at HKAPA, he had never thought about being a dance critic, until one day, the then-editorial assistant Scarlet Wong, who was also responsible for design and layout of the journal, came to him before class. She told him his homework was well-written and asked if he wanted to write dance critiques for dance journal/hk. That was when he made his first attempt. With the pen name “Ock”, he wrote six dance critiques in English for dance journal/hk in its first two years. He joked that he squeezed time from his hectic student life to write just in exchange for the free tickets and compensation Wong promised.
由於那時候他只是個藉藉無名的舞蹈學生，所以剛開始時也戰戰競競，怕寫得不好，又怕得失前輩。不過Tom就給予他信心，叫他放膽去提出自己的看法，除了髒話外，甚麼也可以寫出來。回看當年的文章，A-Hock 認為他是根據自己的經驗去描述表演，而非去評論表演。他認為當年在學院內的舞蹈分析學習，幫助他了解如何把舞蹈動作轉化成文字；同時他亦指出，舞蹈語言（lingo of dance）實在有很多層次，要去真正了解一支舞作，必須要認識編舞、了解舞者、甚至要親身參與設計會議，而難以單單從演出的成果去作評價。
An ordinary dance student at the time, Khek was in fear of writing badly or offending the experienced. Brown encouraged him to voice his views freely and, with the exception of using foul language, the sky was the limit in his writing. Looking back, Khek said he described the performances from his experience, instead of giving a dance critique. He pointed out that learning to analyze dance in school helped him turn dance movements into words. He also said that, in order to truly know the layers of lingo of dance, he needed to get to know the choreographers, dancers, as well as engage in the design meetings, instead of basing the critique solely on the final performance.
Active in the Hong Kong theater scene during the 1990s and 2000s, Afa Chiang currently resides in Shanghai. His articles also appeared in dance journal/hk, among which some were shared from Hong Kong Economic Journal and some were direct contributions. He recalled that at the time, there were many performing artists without formal arts education involved in cross-media discussion and creation. The scale of newspapers and magazines was relatively larger, with more diversified pages and columns. Writers with different backgrounds contributed articles for different aspects – novelists and movie directors critiqued performances in their columns.
When he drafted his dance articles, he usually analyzed the performance as a friend or a choreographer. Instead of writing from the audience’s point of view, Chiang believed that his experience in choreography and theater work was able to bring more possibilities to the critiques. Yet, Chiang was lost in the hustle and bustle of life and could not squeeze time to write later. Along with the downfall of scale of printed cultural editorial platforms, the era of flourishing performance critiques is over.
劉建華Jasper Lau; 攝Photo: William Chan
Other than inviting writers’ pieces, dance journal/hk has always encouraged readers to contribute. Over its 20 year history, young writers with a passion in dance also submitted many articles. Among the most loyal contributors, Jasper Lau contributed to dance journal/hk from 2002 to 2007, and was deemed one of the keenest writers.
Lau recalled that by chance, his life tingled with dance during his high school years, when he saw the selected scenes of Some Expressions of the Female Body (1988), choreographed by Helen Lai. After that, he attended Willy Tsao's Hell Screen (1989) and realized that stage performances could reflect on politics. That sparked his interest in contemporary dance. He only started writing critiques during the fourth year of his fine arts bachelor degree at the Chinese University in Hong Kong. In a theater performance course, he wrote his first critique about a performance by Zuni Icosahedron as a homework. The real influence, however, was in his senior fellow at the New Asia College, Daniel Yeung.
曹誠淵作品《地獄變》Willy Tsao’s Hell Screen (1989); 圖片由CCDC提供 Photo provided by CCDC
黎海寧作品《女體之感動》Helen Lai’s Some Expressions of the Female Body (1988);
圖片由CCDC提供 Photo provided by CCDC
大學時期Daniel還未開始投入舞蹈創作，但就已經拉著Jasper一同到過藝術中心去報讀由林奕華主講有關歐洲當代表演的講座系列，令其時已經對本地舞蹈演出感到厭倦的Jasper，重新燃起對當代藝術的興趣。其後Daniel開始投身舞蹈圈，Jasper也有持續關注，即使他自覺不懂評舞，但也認為可以用過去在視藝範疇學習的身體理論，去談Daniel當時剛回流香港創作的首個長篇舞作《靈靈性性 ─ 天體樂園》（1999），從而正式進入了舞蹈評論的世界。
During university years, before embarking on choreography, Yeung loved dragging Lau along to join the series of workshops hosted by Edward Lam at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. It reignited Lau’s passion in contemporary dance after he got bored with local dance performances. Yeung later started his dance career and Lau kept paying attention. Although he did not think he knew how to critique dance, he reckoned that he could talk about Dance Exhibitionist - A Paradise for Natural Body (1999), Yeung’s first long dance work after coming back, with the body theories he learnt in visual arts lectures.
而Jasper第一篇投稿往《舞》的文章，就是首刊在第4-3期的〈戰亂震央的化毒劑 －以色列巴舒化舞蹈團的《十級地震》與《勒赫林病毒》〉。他坦言那個演出最初吸引他的並非舞蹈，他純粹是衝著《勒》是根據彼得．漢（Peter Handke）的劇場文本《冒犯觀衆》（Offending the Audience）而去看，加上曾在李立亨所寫的《我的看舞隨身書》中讀過有關以色列舞蹈的介紹篇章，故此特別好奇。看畢演出後，他就嘗試綜合自己的一些觀察與想法，寫了文章投到《舞》，並順利獲得刊登。
The first article Lau submitted to dance journal/hk was a review of Isreali Batsheva Dance Company’s Deca Dance and Naharin’s Virus. He admitted that what attracted him initially was not dance. Rather, he was just curious about Handke’s Offending the Audience that was adapted in Naharin’s Virus. After a few chapters in Li Li-heng’s book about Israeli dance, and after the performance, he pulled his observations and views together, and sent his article to dance journal/hk, which published his piece.
After three to four contributions, then-editor-in-chief Cecil Sze asked Lau if he could contribute a piece for each issue covering all dance performances in Hong Kong. Sze wanted a writer to record all performances, big and small, so that different productions had, to a certain extent, a written record. That gave birth to Lau’s column Dance Diary. Each month, he watched as many types of dance performances as possible and gave a general critique in his article in every issue. He later wrote in Chinese and English for over a year. Although he still doesn’t think he counts as a good critic today and has given up on critiquing dance for years, his articles in those years undoubtedly played a significant role in recording the city’s dance development.
延伸閱讀 Further Reading
曹誠淵Willy Tsao (2000)《現代舞價值》（一、二）“The Value of Modern Dance” (Part I, II), 舞蹈手札dance journal/hk Vol 2-1, 2-2.
曹誠淵 (1999)《香港舞蹈有何特色》，舞蹈手札 Vol 1-2.
Willy Tsao (2000). "What are the Characteristics of Hong Kong Dance?", dance journal/hk Vol 2-4.
Susan Street (2000) “What is Classical about Classical Ballet?” (Part I to III), dance journal/hk 2-6, 2-7, 2-8.
白朗唐Tom Brown (2000)《笑中之言⋯》（一、二） “Things Said in Jest…” (Part I, II) 2000, 舞蹈手札dance journal/hk Vol. 2-8, 2-9.
劉建華 (2002)〈戰亂震央的化毒劑 －以色列巴舒化舞蹈團的《十級地震》與《勒赫林病毒》〉, 舞蹈手札Vol 4-3.
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Special thanks to the following donors in supporting 20th Anniversary Feature for dance journal/hk
陳寶珠 Pearl Chan
劉燕玲 Stella Lau
龍世儀 Shirley Loong
羅佳娜 Natasha Rogai
施德安 Cecil Sze
譚兆民 Paul Tam
衛承天 Septime Webre
黃建宏 Kevin Wong
吳報釧 Sylvia Wu