Taiwan’s Wang Yeu-kwn’s Snails set the tone for SPOT, the evening of dance presented by E-side Company on 1-2 November 2019 at the Ngau Chi Wan Civic Centre. Featuring six works between ten to fifteen minutes in length, by choreographers from different countries, the programme billed itself as an evening of “Superb performance, Proficient dancers, Original ideas and Talented works.” A bold way to sell the show but a very tall order – Wang’s work, like the others, showed promise but fell short on fulfilling it.
Snails was the most multi-layered work of the evening, beginning with a strong image created by a striking mask which dancer Lee Yin-ying appeared to very deliberately break. Although the work showed great potential for development, in the event it never quite got to where it seemed to want to take us. There were intriguing moments - Do we all wear shells? Can we break away from them? - but Wang never wove them into a narrative one could hold on to.
Snails; Choreographer: Wang Yeu-kwn; Photo: Alan Wong
Speech by Henry Shum took a different direction from previous works I have seen by this choreographer. Trained in Chinese dance, Shum is a dancer-choreographer whose works defy easy genre categorisation. This time, he chose to present a duet set very much within a western contemporary context, which was danced very capably by Kammy Lau and Ivan Chan. The soundscape included recordings of conversations and thoughts between and emerging from the dancers, which were intimate and revealing. This text was juxtaposed against the ticking sound of a clock, signifying the march of time – while this is not the most original idea, it did indicate a certain urgency in moving towards a conclusion. As a contemporary dance duet, it did not light up the sky with new or unconventional choreographic vocabulary, but it did seek to convey a strong emotional message that resonates with the current tense climate in Hong Kong, and much of the world.
Albert Tiong is a highly regarded Malaysian-born Singaporean artist with strong ties to Hong Kong. For this production, Tiong’s Being was danced by Muhammad Shahrul Bin Mohammed and it began promisingly. The dancer appeared extremely comfortable in the Malay dance language utilised through fluid and well-articulated arms, while seated on a sofa. This developed into the manipulation of the sofa for the remainder of the work, which seemed at odds with the synopsis (the state of being accidental) as the manipulation of sofa positions looked so intentional. Perhaps the idea was that, as each new position invoked some response from the dancer in relationship to the prop, this evolved into a journey of sorts.
Being; Choreographer: Albert Tiong; Photo: Alan Wong
The lightest work came from Korean Kwon Jae-heon. Kwon won the Grand Prix and Male Gold Medal at the 2017 Korea International Contemporary Dance Contest, impressing the judges with his incredible facility and control. It is clear that Kwon is exploring a wider range of movement ideas for himself. He combined a variety of dance genres in his presentation entitled E(nd)rror … and based on the premise that every choice might be right or wrong. The work appeared to be a structured improvisation and the dancer could be seen making choices spontaneously. Kwon is a strong performer with a bright personality and that makes him watchable. As a choreographer, he still has a long way to go to define greater intention in his work.
Phonate by one of Hong Kong’s most prolific and ubiquitous choreographers, Wayson Poon, was perhaps the most perplexing work of the evening. The title means “to produce or utter speech sounds” and its synopsis suggested that “breath becomes language”. Watching the piece, I searched for the concept of breath and focused on how it would grow into a bigger idea or movement language, and what it would say to me. Unfortunately, the meaning escaped me. - Maybe Poon’s presentation was too abstract for my understanding, but then the idea of language, any language, is that it is a tool of communication.
The final work was a contact improvisation duet, Distance, choreographed by Andy Lin and Hsu Pei-jia from Taiwan, and danced by Hsieh Chih-ying and Wan Yu-hung, which seemed to be the perfect metaphor for Hong Kong today. A positive message that we need to depend on each other if we are to rise from the ashes of the past few months. The two dancers continuously remained in touch with each other, alternately taking and giving their weight. It was a brave decision to remain rooted to the centre spot, and this choice again drew me into the space that Hong Kong is in today, and the way that citizens are digging in their heels, saying we will not be moved from the city we love. It seemed to be a cry for support and a reminder that only with each other’s support can we survive.
Speech; Choreographer: Henry Shum; Photo: Alan Wong
was Dean of Dance, National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage, Malaysia for two decades. He is an educator, choreographer, author, curator, producer, and Artistic Director of ASK Dance Company. Currently, he is Professor of Dance at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
SPOT Hong Kong 2019
Choreographers: (Hong Kong) Henry Shum, (Hong Kong) Wayson Poon, (Korea) Kwon Jae-heon, (Singapore) Albert Tiong, (Taiwan) Wang Yeu-kwn, (Taiwan) Andy Lin & Hsu Pei-jia
Performance: 11 Nov 2019 20:00 Theatre, Ngau Chi Wan Civic Centre