[中][ENG]我心不死 繼續跳舞 — CCDC及CCDC舞蹈中心專訪 My heart goes on - keep dancing and carry on -- An interview wi
[中]我心不死 繼續跳舞 — CCDC及CCDC舞蹈中心專訪
疫情下，原定之現場演出被逼延期，舞團立即轉攻網絡世界，推出串流平台「CCDC Programme Play」（劇場搜影），舞迷足不出戶仍能觀賞舞團歷年精彩節目；除了看舞，舞迷亦可透過線上教室學習不同舞種，就算處於停工停課狀態，舞蹈生活仍可持續不停。Raymond認為，不論社會狀況如何惡劣，舞團必須堅持邁步向前，這既關乎機構的生存，亦涉及團隊的使命，「為什麼政府會『support』（支持）文化藝術，因為這是『basic right』（基本權利），是責任。」
藝團演出需要取消和延期，損害當然巨大；既成事實，多想無益，Raymond寧可把握這個暫借的餘暇進行深層次的檢討和反思，「去思考我們表演藝術的本質是什麼，任何『art form』（藝術形式）都好，即是你的本質是否與社會一齊行？或是你本身與社會就不是太有關係呢？」他尤其關注表演藝術在香港社會的位置，「全世界的表演藝術都受影響，都要『cut show』（抽起節目），意義在哪？對香港來說，cut了show也無所謂，即是等如你不行街、不看戲，好似沒有太大所謂，但是對於某些國家來說，好大件事『哎呀！少了一場歌劇』，那又代表了什麼呢？」
[ENG] My heart goes on - keep dancing and carry on
-- An interview with the directors of CCDC and CCDC Dance Centre
Original Text: Brian Yu
The dark days of the Covid-19 pandemic have had a massive impact on daily life. Dance performances, classes and exchange events have been cancelled or postponed; choreography, practice and learning also affected. Operations in the dance sector have almost come to a halt. Members of the industry do not want to waste their time being idle and have made use of tools like information technology to carry on with dance activities. In the past February, City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC) reacted quickly to the situation with the launch of the “Facebook live classroom”, online streaming service and an online dance music channel in cooperation with KKBOX, the music streaming service provider. CCDC’s managing director, Raymond Wong, stresses that although the circumstances are tough, they cannot stop their activities. “If we stop what we’re doing, people will forget us. Even if everything goes back to normal after the pandemic, people won’t think about us anymore, we will become dispensable,” he explains.
CCDC managing director Raymond Wong (left) and CCDC Dance Centre director Kevin Wong (right) in Studio 7; Photo: Terry Tsang
In line with the government’s anti-epidemic plan, CCDC Dance Centre has suspended dance classes since late January, and is facing from a potential loss of more than a million dollars if full refunds of class fees are ultimately made. The Dance Centre’s director, Kevin Wong, points out that long term class suspension results in a series of profound impacts, including reduced income for dance teachers and disruption of students’ learning. He is also worried that it will take a long time for things to get better. “Other dance studios outside suffer way more than we do. We at least do not have to pay high rent at the moment. They have to spend over ten thousand dollars each month on rent. Now, they have no income, so what can they do? What will it be like if the situation goes on this way?” he laments.
During the pandemic, scheduled live dance performances have been postponed. CCDC has turned to the internet, rolling out a streaming service, CCDC Programme Play, where users can view past dance programmes and performances by CCDC. In addition to watching performances, users can also study different genres of dance through online dance classes. Despite the suspension of work and classes, dance life can still go on. Raymond Wong is certain that no matter how dire the status quo is, CCDC still has to move forward. This is a matter of the institution’s survival and preserving its mission. He adds, “Why does the government support culture and arts? It is because this is a basic right and a responsibility.”
With all performances either cancelled or postponed, the losses are huge but there is no point dwelling on the downside and getting upset. Instead, Raymond Wong prefers to focus on reviewing and reflection during this period of inactivity. “To think about the nature of our performing arts, you have to think whether your own nature aligns with society, regardless of the art form your work belongs to. Or do you yourself not relate enough to society?” he questions. He is particularly concerned with the status of performing arts in Hong Kong society. “Performing arts all over the world have been affected. Everyone has had to cut shows. What’s the point? Yet in Hong Kong, it doesn’t seem to matter if dance shows are cancelled, it’s just like not going out, or not going to the cinema to watch films. Yet in some countries, it matters hugely if there’s one opera less. What does this mean?” he continues.
The reason for Raymond Wong's insistence on CCDC continuing to operate and to stay in sync with society is that he believes in the unique value of the performing arts. “To provide enrichment and entertainment is one basic thing that we can do, but is there also a spiritual value or other value we can give to console society? I believe the meaning of this ‘continuation’ is even more important,” he says.
Aside from the exploration of CCDC’s spirits and reaffirmation of its objectives, he and his team also have the opportunity to clarify their future direction and allocation of resources. “We have done quite a lot of analysis. The more we discuss the issues with our staff, the more clearly we know the reasons for what we have done, the more we can sort out what isn’t really necessary, which things we can stop doing or get on with later. In this way, we can get our focus back,” he explains. The first programme to be discontinued was the (Jumping Frames) contracted project to commission dance videos. After many years of investment and promotion, CCDC is confident that society now has a certain level of awareness and understanding of dance videos. The company believes that this market will be able to thrive on its own and has thus decided to transfer the project’s resources to other areas instead.
Much time and effort has been spent on re-evaluating CCDC’s spirit, objectives and operations, digging deep to review these aspects. It is voluntary and involuntary at the same time. The Covid-19 outbreak is only one of the reasons for such a thorough review. The CCDC Dance Centre is also facing the unprecedented difficulty of having to move to a new location. In these circumstances, CCDC’s whole team is prepared to fight an uphill battle and morale is high. In this time of crisis, Raymond Wong remains positive and sees opportunities in the dangers the company is facing – for example, the decision to discontinue the dance video project. “To be honest, if Mr. Tsao had not withdrawn from CCDC, we wouldn’t be thinking and considering what alternatives we might have. I think we need to return to the real meaning of our existence and think about our followers. The amount of deliberation involved in this process is significant.”
CCDC online class; Photo provided by CCDC
The CCDC Dance Centre is the backbone of CCDC and the cradle of the contemporary dance sector in Hong Kong. It provides venues for dance rehearsals, platforms for creative projects for emerging dance choreographers and performers and dance classes which have nurtured generations of dance talents. Its productions have fulfilled the dreams of dance practitioners. Whether providing venues, platforms, or funding, the Centre has been a pillar supporting the continuous growth of Hong Kong dance. When the news that the Centre was being forced to re-locate came out, the whole dance sector was shocked.
The Centre’s current lease expires in September. Kevin Wong reveals that the team is exploring different options. They have requested a short-term renewal of the lease from the new owner, but have not yet received a reply. Meantime, they are looking for suitable substitute locations, such as studios in the HK Arts Development Council’s Tai Po Arts Centre or space in commercial premises. Furthermore, CCDC has submitted an application to the government to redevelop a disused school in Fo Tan into a new dance centre. If everything goes as planned, this new dance centre will open in 2022.
Kevin Wong expects the coming two years will be mainly transitional. The challenges are going to be big. “We are working together non-stop on proposals and plans, doing the calculations to see which proposals will work and which we can put aside,” he says.
According to the current plan, the new dance centre will be equipped with five rehearsal rooms, plus other basic facilities including offices and locker rooms. Kevin Wong acknowledges that the scale of the dance centre’s development will inevitably be affected; however, the ways in which it can develop could be more diverse. For example, a ‘satellite’ model might be envisaged, with a principal location plus smaller studios in other places. “Could we operate like this?” he wonders.
Raymond Wong believes that different approaches have different advantages. On the one hand he laments that “It’s surely a pity that we won’t have a hub anymore where we can all meet together,” On the other hand: “If we’re spread more widely, could that help to promote audience building? Our aim should be to operate flexibly. To us, there is nothing that cannot be worked out.”
Despite the inevitable preoccupation with its internal reform and impending change, CCDC has not lost its concern for the overall development of the dance sector. Raymond Wong hopes that their counterparts in the dance sector will remain positive and deal proactively with the challenges ahead. When normal work is affected, they need to grasp the opportunity presented by difficult times to plan for the future. CCDC and its dance centre will do everything in their power to fully support their colleagues in the sector. He stresses that this is their duty, “as one of the nine major performing arts groups, it’s our responsibility to see through hard times with everyone together. How we can keep on dancing is what we think about every day. We have to keep the desire to be creative burning. If this passion dies out, it will be hard to rekindle it again.” Kevin Wong also urges other members of the dance sector to take action, “if you speak out, you are likely to get help, or join together with others to make things work. But if you just sit and do nothing but complain, nothing is going to happen.”
The programmes of CCDC 40th Anniversary Dance Festival, A Lover’s Concerto and 07/08022020CE to be held in Tai Kwun in early February have been postponed.
 In October 2019, CCDC’s founder Willy Tsao resigned as the company’s artistic director and reclaimed ownership of his property, the site of CCDC Dance Centre, for other development, obliging the Centre to seek a new location.
(English Translation by Pomny Chu)
‘Don’t look to authorities; the truth is in yourself.’
The Passion of Michel Foucault