Text: Koala Yip
Amadeus (a cyberpunk dream) / Photo provided by the Hong Kong Ballet and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
Amadeus (a cyberpunk dream) is a new dance film presented by Hong Kong Ballet and Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in April 2021. Directed by Ahong Cheung and choreographed by Septime Webre, this is a captivating 5-minute location-based dance and music performance delivered in a short film format. The introduction says “With this compelling short film…(we would like to) revive the city virtually and to pay homage to its famous neon light aesthetics and renowned cinematic style...” The visual narrative is charged with inventive costumes, sets and computer-generated special effects.
Honestly, Mozart and cyberpunk could be a problematic divergence if we think in a conventional way: cyberpunk usually refers to high tech + low life and its usual musical companions would be eerie electronic sound or heavy-metal rock. What if string music appears too thin for the audience to be swept into the dark sensations? How would neon colours speak the tongue of Mozart? Performing a piece of classical music with ballet dancers in the context of cyberpunk style is quite a risky move. Is there a creative solution?
Hong Kong Ballet Dancers Gao Ge (left), Zhang Xuening (right) / Photo provided by the Hong Kong Ballet and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
In the film, all the dancers and musicians are in full costume according to their designated characters. The protagonist is a male dancer (Shen Jie) representing an imaginary Mozart figure who falls into an enigmatic time and space of Hong Kong. In the film, the audience follows the main character to experience a Hong Kong style dystopian night life. Femmebot twins dash in, digital goldfish fly through, a punk drummer and a string quartet play music in a junkyard of old AV gear, dancers and musicians assemble together on mahjong tables. Countless details display the excellence of the production design. In contrast with physical theatre on stage, here film allows the audience to “walk through” this music and dance performance where every element expresses certain symbols of Hong Kong culture. The choreography is very well-structured for the camera. It employs the configurations of classical ballet but wittily condenses and fragments the dance scenes. The solos, duets and ensembles are generally very finely-crafted in portraying particular characters. All the dancers and musicians have a very strong presence in the film. It looks as if they are really engaged in performing in this eccentric setting and this makes the film very enjoyable to watch.
Hong Kong Ballet Dancer Shen Jie / Photo provided by the Hong Kong Ballet and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
The director demonstrates a provocative yet mature way of staging a journey into the aesthetics of cyberpunk fused with the urban landscape of Hong Kong. I was impressed with the fluidity of the camera work tracking the main character and letting him bring the audience into the performative space. There are moments when the camera pans from a close-up of a dancer leaping down a steep slope or turning towards an intersection of side streets, followed by an ascending wide shot scanning high-rise buildings filled with floating neon signs and holograms, which truly transforms the beauty of Hong Kong. With film media taking a new lens to music and dance, this exquisite piece of work is a triumph of total artistry.
Formally trained as a dance artist, has extended her work into new media art and education, with practice-based research interests on Art-Tech (somatics and medical imagery). Recent recipient of the Teaching Excellence Award, School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, as well as the HKAPA Creative Collaborative Arts Award.
Amadeus (a cyberpunk dream)
Hong Kong Ballet and Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
Director: Ahong Cheung
Choreographer: Septime Webre
Online Premiere: 26 April 2021