Five creative dance pieces from Korea, Israel, Guangzhou, Taiwan and Hong Kong were presented in two programmes in December 2018, under the main theme NEXT at the twelfth edition of 8/F Platform at the Hong Kong Dance Company (hereafter as the Company). Yang Yuntao, Artistic Director of the Company, mentioned in the house programme that the intention of the collection this year was to connect like minds by showing pure body movement. While noticing that either the choreographers or the dance pieces were awards winners, Yang’s selection to bring them to 8/F Platform was rigorous. It was a comprehensive collection to include dance styles from different cultural backgrounds, nevertheless under a rather vague theme NEXT.
The first piece, Between, is a pas de deux co-choreographed and performed by Kyum Ahn and Gayoung Lee of Momuro Movement Lab from Korea. Dressed in warm light orange and cool grey, both Ahn and Lee face the audience with dull faces, sitting close to each other on the floor and then responding to each other’s movement like a chain. After a passionate hug, they take off their outer clothes and dance in underwear and shorts. Ahn finally holds the struggling Lee in his arms to walk off the stage. Ahn and Lee co-ordinate and harmonize their flow of movement well but the story is weak and the expression is too plain to impress on the audience the gulf that once existed between them.
Then comes the second piece, Pishpesh, Will Arrive, choreographed by Eyal Dadon and performed with Tamar Barlev, Shay Partush and Mourad Bouayad of SOL dance Company from Israel. Backed with an amusing rhythm, it starts in slow motion as if practising attack and evasion between a man and a woman, and then replaced by two men. Following the beats of Israeli music with occasional shouting, three men in suits perform folk dance-like movements identically. When one of them leaves the group and concentrates on his slow practising of ‘kung-fu’ fighting, the other two members gradually quit from the routine pattern. Afterwards, these three men move vigorously across the platform. This is the most delighting part as their masculine power pours out on stage. Then, instead of three men dancing in a group, Barlev, the only ballerina, dressed in a suit, dances with the other men, leaving one man continuously dancing in his own pattern even at the time of the curtain call. This work is supposed to express with some satirical sense their views towards the roles of male and female, but it is not easy for most of the local audience to understand what they want to reflect in each scene, and if it is concerned with Israeli culture. What will arrive?
SOL Dance Company’s Pishpesh, Will Arrive; Choreographer: Eyal Dadon; Photo: S2 Production
The third piece, Paper People, is choreographed by Zhiren Xiao and performed by Yin Zou, Yao Zhou, and Wei Dai. Facing a white cyclorama and standing still on a floor covered with white bedding and white powder that make the stage look snowy, Zou, Zhou, and Dai, wholly covered with white make-up with pieces of crumbled up paper in their mouths, take turns moving slightly like robots walking backwards until they are close to the audience. They play tricks on each other, stuffing paper in others’ mouths, and then laughing like happy kids. After Zhou and Dai put a big brown paper tube around Zou and pour in a bucket of white powder, they also get into another two big brown paper tubes. Concealed inside, the three of them distort the paper, only showing their heads like aliens. Under gloomy and spooky lighting, this ending scene is weird and horrifying. Strictly speaking, this work is like a piece of theatre between ‘mind’ and ‘mime’ rather than a dance piece. Sometimes they form patterns following the music and sometimes they act with exaggerated facial expressions and body movements. Xiao may want to express his views towards human nature that is like paper: originally plain as a child’s heart but fragile and distorted in a tough environment.
Zhiren Xiao’s Paper People; Photo: S2 Production
The fourth piece, Bon 4 Bon, is choreographed by Eyal Dadon and performed by four brothers, Chang Chien-Hao, Chang Chien-Chih, Chang Chien-Kuei and Chang Ho-Chien, of Chang Dance Theatre. It begins with one of the Changs lying on the floor in the dark facing away from the audience, narrating a personal anecdote in Mandarin. Then, the other three Changs come out to join the first Chang to start their dance. In casual wear of T-shirts, blue jeans and socks, the timing of their movement is well organized. With some paper props that look like mango seeds stacking up near a standing microphone, the Chang brothers dance and sometimes take turn in narrating their childhood memories around eating mangos. They play with the props and use them as weapons for throwing. One of the highlights is when they talk about their old wardrobe at home, they exchange their T-shirts and socks, eventually taking off their blue jeans showing boxer shorts with cute patterns for the curtain call. According to their narrations throughout the performance, the Chang brothers’ work is a reflection of their childhood memories, but it may not be easy for non-Mandarin speakers to understand the contents and the related intentions of their movement.
The fifth dance, In Search Of…, is co-choreographed and performed by Zhu Zhuoran and Huang Wenjie of the Company with Tse Tai-shun from Hong Kong playing keyboard, Jin Zhe from Korea playing Korean haegeum (a musical instrument recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage), and Huang Yu-hsuan from Taiwan, working at the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, playing sheng. The beginning pas de deux of Zhu and Huang is charming and graceful. Following the beautiful melody generated by piano and sheng, Zhu’s solo with a big fan shows his effortless virtuosity, clarity and command. When the distressing sound generated from the Korean haegeum is added, it makes the second pas de deux of Zhu and Huang filled with sorrow and grief. Afterwards, the mood suddenly changes into panic when Huang is wrapped in white cloth listening to Jin’s recorded song with a threatening tone. Huang’s painful struggle continues when Zhu plays the Korean drum mercilessly and fiercely. Then, Huang falls on a short path of soil, signalling her death. However, when the gentle music of piano, sheng and haegeum comes again, Huang seems to revive. With dirt on her face and body, she comes close to the audience with tears and smiles, and receives a hug from a kind lady in the front row. Then, Zhu, swinging a long and narrow strip on the top of his Korean-style hat like a swirl, comes close to Huang. Zhu surrounds her inside the swirl and they disappear in the humming sound of the moving swirl. This work shows the talents and proficiency of Zhu in Korean dance and musical instrument well. Although the scene with Jin acting and pretending to sing with the recorded voice without opening his mouth is rather odd and embarrassing, the live music combined with both tradition and modernity is pleasing to the ears.
In these five dance pieces, there is a number of recorded pieces of music used without indicating the sources in the house programme. It may be a courtesy to credit the composers who inspired the choreographers to create their art works.
Hong Kong Dance Company’s In Search of…; Choreographer: Zhu Zhuoran; Photo: S2 Production
Lee participated in Dance Enhance in 2015 and 2017, a dance appreciation and criticism writing programme organized by the Hong Kong Dance Alliance. She is currently studying in a Doctor of Applied Language Sciences programme at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and has studied flamenco since 2009.
8/F Platform – NEXT (Programme 1: Korea, Israel, Guangzhou; Programme 2: Taiwan, Hong Kong)
Choreographers: Kyum Ahn, Gayoung Lee, Eyal Dadon, Zhiren Xiao, Zhu Zhuoran
Performances: 16 December 2018 15:00 & 21 December 2018 19:45 8/F Platform, Hong Kong Dance Company, Sheung Wan Civic Centre