[中][ENG] 本地舞蹈生態面面談 Chatting about Local Dance Scene


In the last two issues, we interviewed previous editors and writers of dance journal/hk, who shared their experiences in editing, writing features, and critiques. For this issue, we will bring the focus closer to dance. We invited two dance critics – Daisy Chu and Cally Yu – and two artists – Yang Yuntao and Mui Cheuk-yin. The four discussed the trends and changes in Hong Kong’s dance scene in the past decade, as well as their own experiences and observations.



Performance Venues Lack Personalities to Differentiate Audiences

Chu first brought up the phenomenon of shows “clashing” with each other. There can be two to three new productions on the same weekend. Even if only dance performances are counted, the number is not small, signifying the abundance of local creations.

Yet, the number of eager dance viewers is not high, and shows fighting for audience with each other exacerbates the situation. Dance zealots have to keep very busy with shows or to make a choice.


Mui reckoned that this is inevitable, unless Hong Kong has a similar setting as that in New York, where different types of theatres come with different features. They cater to different audiences such as Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway – they have different positions so viewers have a clue what they will watch in each of these theatres. They can find the shows they like simply based on the theatre’s characteristics, rather than having to read through information on each programme.

However, Hong Kong’s theatres are mostly publicly-owned multifunctional venues without apparent distinctive features and boundaries. A theatre can house both a graduation ceremony and a large-scale performance. This is, in fact, a very peculiar phenomenon as this leaves no way for viewers to follow or identify. Mui said if there are theatres of different personalities, audiences can then be differentiated, so that shows don’t have to go head-to-head.


Yu noticed the growing number of independent dancers and dance groups in recent years as well as the emergence of new types of dances and shows. The adventurous works might take place in an apartment in an old district or at a corner on a rooftop, as if popping up from a tiny crack. Despite taking place in the industrial areas, many experimental productions fear being suppressed by the industrial land use policy, so they tend not to make their venue public and viewers can only know the address from private text messages. Chu and Mui believed that these performances in factories can offer alternative choices for viewers, but if venues in factories cannot fulfil the requirements of fire safety, the shows cannot take place officially so they are not able to publicize it, making it difficult to access potential audiences.

(左起)朱琼愛、俞若玫、楊雲濤、梅卓燕 (From Left) Daisy Chu and Cally Yu, Yang Yuntao and Mui Cheuk-yin; 攝Photo: 陳瑋鑫William Chan



Rigid Subsidy System and Limited Support for Artistic Creation

Resource allocation is a direct element affecting the quality of work. Mui said the current subsidy system requires artists to create before being funded. Artists cannot go into a project with an open, relaxed attitude, and they have insufficient space to experiment. Before truly knowing their own work, they are forced onto the stage. If the piece does not go on tour or get reruns, it becomes a product covered by dust in the attic. That is why Mui in recent years has been fighting for more chances for colleagues to rerun – even if these artworks are not shown again in Hong Kong, she hopes they can go out of the city and by rerunning, become refined and improved.


Yang said creators should ask themselves why they produce the shows. If the aim is purely for subsidies, internal friction will erode all the creative energy. What’s worse is that the artist might have no knowledge of this. He admitted that the Hong Kong Dance Company, where he is currently working at, is a publicly subsidized dance company, so its creation pursues more than artistic concerns. The operation of the whole organization is often taken into account, rather than solely artistic pursuit.

小梅認為最理想是每一個製作也能夠有足夠三個月維持創作人生計的資助,去支持創作人安心創作,分階段進行試演,讓有潛力的作品可以拾級而上,好像比利時經典舞作《Rosas danst Rosas》,也是先在邊緣的劇場試演,才獲其他劇院邀約,一步一步走到大劇院以至世界。因此她認為可以嘗試建立不同資助階梯,支持每個階段值得發展的作品,並且應該要持續去培育一個創作人,而不是單就獨立的計劃申請作考慮。

Mui believed that the most ideal system should enable subsidies that support artists’ three-month livelihood for each artwork. They can conduct trial performances in different stages so pieces with potential can rise to fame gradually, like the classic dance piece Rosas danst Rosas from Belgium, which went through trial performances in fringe theatres before stepping up by invitation to grand theatres and then globally. She thought that by trying to set up funding systems of different hierarchies, the systems can support the pieces that stand out at each level. Funding systems should consistently nurture an artist, instead of taking applications one by one as independent cases.


Chu echoed Mui’s suggestion of setting up funding systems of different hierarchies. She suggested that the ideal subsidy can support and nurture an artist for two to three years. It should not force a new piece from them every two to three months or demand a complete work at the end, but rather, artists can have trial performances so they have time and space to polish their pieces. Mui reckoned that the suggestion is plausible, but it requires changes in the whole institution and the decision makers’ mindset. She said the subsidy approval system of the two major sponsors, Hong Kong Arts Development Council and the Home Affairs Bureau, are only band aids but fail to consider the long-term development of arts.