Building on the reputation of the first version Maze in 2012, the second version Maze: Pushing Boundaries in June was received by full houses. Pushing Boundaries was staged at the Studio Theatre of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. This venue allowed the choreographers to situate the audience differently, in the maze and up in the balcony.
Disappointing to Completing
When I first watched the performance “in the maze”, it is easy to find similarities between the original version and Pushing Boundaries, such as the first and the last scenes. Although the blocks limited viewing angles in the original version, I did not feel manipulated like this time. The audience had to be on a specific spot for each scene under the guidance of ushers, and not allowed to go beyond the “boundaries”. When the whole stage could be seen from the balcony, I questioned the need for ushers leading the audience around in the maze. The presence of ushers in Pushing Boundaries also distracted attention at the performance whenever they began to direct or urge the audience into the position of the next scene. If the necessity of ushers is due to safety precautions, then it is paid with the price of freedom.
Just a few hours after the disappointing experience “in the maze”, I feel complete after watching the performance with a bird's-eye view from the balcony. The dancers began the piece like strangers in the city, pushing away from each other. In the maze, it was unclear how the relations between them developed into harmony and union in the very last scene. Only from the balcony, one could see dancers gradually building up their relationships through the cooperation of the moving walls, with different supporting and counter-balance movements behind the walls hidden from the audience in the maze. The work became complete only if one watched the performance from both perspectives.
Continuous Work on Youth and Community
Just three months after Pushing Boundaries, the third version of the series, Maze: Shifting Boundaries were performed at different shopping malls, i.e. K11, Citywalk 2 and Island Resort Mall. Shifting Boundaries was a youth-based production that launched last November with open recruitment, followed by nine months of rehearsals. Like Pushing Boundaries, there was also an open workshop for the public to experience and have a glimpse of Shifting Boundaries in April earlier this year. I had a taste of trying to move and react to the blockage of other bodies.
Shifting Boundaries was performed by four professional dancers and twenty youth dancers. It is common to see the combination of professional and amateur dancers in Passoverdance’s productions for youth so that amateurs can learn not only by words but the action and attitude of professionals.
Because I was out of town in late September, I could only watch the performance at K11. The floor was a wooden board like the shape of a Z-brick in the game Tetris, i.e. a 4-square x 6-square board adjacent to a 7-square x 6-square board. The unique Z-shape creates a perspectival vision of the piece.1 The movable walls in previous versions of Maze were replaced by 35 movable pillars. Dancers moved the pillars along the grid lines on the wooden board, and they also danced within the pillars. The alterations in the set created more possibilities for interactions between the dancers and the boundaries. Sometimes dancers explored the invisible boundaries with their gestures and these boundaries also limited their movements, while at other times dancers moved through these boundaries and connected to each other.
The most organic and impressive part throughout the performance is how the pillars resonated the dancers’ movements through the vibration of the wooden floor and how the dancers reacted to the falling of pillars. Some amateur dancers went out of their performing attitude to put the falling pillars upright. Also, some stage crews interrupted the performing space to keep the falling pillars away from the audience. It was beautiful to watch the alertness of dancers in sensing the space around them.
The combination of this duality questioned whether constraints in our lives do constrain us. The resonance of the pillars hinted at how these constraints might be unaffected by our actions.
I was surprised by the "chi K11 art space”. It was a small gallery at the side of an MTR underground pedestrian tunnel, with passengers passing by to change trains. Even though I often walk through that subway, I usually overlook the presence of this art space. When the performance happened, some pedestrians stood behind and watched through the glass windows. Shifting Boundaries slowed the pace of people in their daily lives, stoking their curiosity to stop and enjoy.
I hope that the change of set from large panels to more portable pillars will lead to more possibilities of a rerun in different spaces in the community.
1The Z-shape floor is a special setting for the venue in K11. For other performances at Citywalk 2 and Island Resort, the grid floor was in a rectangular shape.
=== Hin-fung Fung M.Phil in Philosophy, specializing in Kant’s philosophy and aesthetics, a freelance writer and art administrator. Maze: Pushing Boundaries Choreographers: Rosalind Newman, Pewan Chow Performance: 16 June 2018 17:00 & 20:00 Studio Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Shifting Boundaries Choreographer: Pewan Chow Performance: 8 September 2018 12:00 chi K11 art space