[Eng] Dance Travelogue: A Voyage of Discovery - Exploring Dance and Art in Europe on the Brink of the Pandemic
Text: Ong Tze-shen
I was fortunate enough to receive funding for a study trip overseas from the China Merchants Foundation and supported by Hong Kong Dance Company. Right before the world closed down I flew out of Hong Kong to three different cities in Europe to take dance classes and watch performances.
There was so much to take in - every day was filled with art and messages. The art, people and vibes were priceless to me. This trip allowed me to connect and reconnect with many new and old friends. It was also enriching to revisit art works that I had seen years ago and seeing them again gave me another layer of understanding and appreciation.
Photo: Jaze Chan (Photo provided by Ong Tse-shen)
In late February 2020, I flew to Paris from Hong Kong. I visited theatres, museums and galleries in search of classical, modern and contemporary art. I was overwhelmed by some of the performances there. They are seeking for possibilities that you would never have considered or topics that we would rarely touch on. Yet, they created a way of seeing things and reconsidering what is art and performance that stimulates viewers and provokes them to think with a more conscious mind.
I took most of my classes at the National Dance Centre, Centre National de la Danse (CND) in Paris. I had performed in a dance festival presented by CND two years ago. It's a culture hub for artists to research, develop and share their works. I was so excited to visit CND again to attend their professional classes. As it was not a peak season, many participants from other fields of art joined the classes. It was fascinating for us to observe each other and how we inhabit body and mind in this space. We shared the concepts and ideas of our different training backgrounds, which was very productive, leading us all to appreciate how art can be delivered in a million different ways.
Visiting the Centre National da la Danse in Paris. / Photo provided by Ong Tse-shen
In the second week, I continued my journey moving on to Amsterdam where I did more dance classes at The Henny Jurriens Studio (HJS). HJS has two open classes (Ballet and Contemporary Dance) for the public and I strongly enhanced my contemporary dance technique there. I visited the three most famous museums in Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. The museums have different collections of arts and explore themes ranging from poetics to politics, and from mythology to ecology, which made me think about how art should be presented and what I, as an artist, should create. I think this will become part of my artistic practice core values when I create and develop my own art pieces in the future.
The third city on my itinerary was Brussels. By that time the virus outbreak was getting more serious in Europe. I spent most of my time at Tictac Art Centre – an alternative art centre which brings together a range of disciplines, including dance and visual arts. It was founded by renowned artists David Zambrano and Mat Voorter, who are passionate about art and the world and whose ideas are amply manifested in the art space. Tictac invites different artists to give workshops periodically. I attended workshops by Sophia Rodriguez and Marta Coronado which I found enlightening both physically and mentally: one was about creating your own solo, what you want to execute and how to find your own voice; the other explored the intensity of movement using Release Technique.
I was planning to stay at Tictac for another week but on 14 March, the Belgian Government enforced emergency lockdown measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. All art sectors had to be closed until further notice. I had no choice but to leave Europe and put an end to my exploration of the arts there. Among all the beautiful and joyous moments I experienced, it’s sad to mention that while travelling in Europe I faced racism from some people because of the outbreak of COVID-19 and the fact that I was Asian and wearing a mask. From the bottom of my heart I hope that in art we can share love and peace. Throughout these three weeks of my art “expedition” every dancer and artist I met was so kind and so passionate. The world would be a better place if we could appreciate each other more.
It was a pity that my trip had to be cut short. Still, I was able to connect with so many amazing people and share my ideas and technique with them. I hope that in the near future we will be able to collaborate or have a conversation on art or recent discoveries. I am more than grateful for this journey and I sincerely hope the world will heal as soon as possible so that all artists can get through this tough time in the company of art. I also look forward to putting all my artistic practices into effect in a dance piece or performance soon.
Text: Ong Tse-shen
Born and raised in Penang, Ong Tze-shen began dancing at the age of 13 and has participated in numerous competitions and performances since then. He received full scholarships throughout his four years at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and graduated with First Class Honours in 2018. He joined Hong Kong Dance Company in the same year. He is also a researcher of HKDC’s Research study on Chinese martial arts and Chinese dance.