（英文原文刊於2012年的第十四冊第六期Originally published in dance journal/hk 14-6 in 2012. This is a translation of the Chinese article, not a transcript of the interview done in English)
《舞. 雷雨》德州大劇院演出 攝影：榮軒（圖片由JCNAP 提供）
As a regular attendee of dance productions in Hong Kong, I find the so-called 'dance-drama', a dance format that is quite popular locally especially for big dance companies, a seemingly attractive but also a somewhat dubious idea. It is easy to see why it is popular: a storyline, especially that of a famous and well-liked narrative, is surely helpful for general audiences to appreciate the abstract art form, and therefore good for marketing and audience building. However, as a creative art form, the results are often disappointing. It is easy to understand why it is such a challenging task for dance itself is genetically not good at depicting story details or complicated plots, and as a result, the dance part of a dance-drama is always restricted by the storyline itself, which, in most cases, imposes ideas that are almost impossible to choreograph. Some other more successful works willingly discard the narrative but focus on some ideas abstracted from the story, at the expense of the drama of the work. In many cases, if not all, these works are considered as dance theatre, and not exactly dance-drama. As a result, dance-drama often remains an idealistic art form in Hong Kong that proposes an attractive and interesting challenge to local artists.
More than half a decade ago, in a review of a dance-drama published in dance journal/hk, I suggested an obvious approach to the challenge: the involvement of drama artists, a director or a playwright, might be needed to make a dance-drama successful. Little did I know then that the challenge would be finally tackled successfully not by a dance company but by a drama company.
Thunderstorm, a famous play written about 80 years ago by renowned Chinese playwright Cao Yu, was re-interpreted into a 'pantomime of modem Chinese dance and physical theatre' by Tang Shu-wing Theatre Studio as a production for the 2012 New Vision Arts Festival. Created by Director Tang Shu-wing and Choreographer Xing Liang, and performed at Hong Kong Cultural Centre Studio Theatre on October 26-28, the work is a perfect demonstration of how a dance-drama should be and how much it can achieve.
《舞・雷雨》首演預告片 Trailer of Thunderstorm Premiere
The foundation of the success, which is its single most important difference from other attempts in dance-drama, is the stripping down of the story into a dramatic essence that is suitable to be rendered by dance. It is true that the story choice helped to make it easier, but the task was still not easy, for it needs true understanding of both art forms to tackle the task effectively. Much thought is also needed to break the story down to a reasonable number of dance scenes. The thoughtfulness is best reflected in the short Prologue, in which characters of the family are arranged sitting on and standing behind a grand and heavy couch in the centre of the stage, seemingly to have their photo taken. The formal composition is soon transformed by shifting gazes, turning hearts, body inclinations, reaching hands, and the complicated relationships of the family members, both open and secret, are revealed. The scene economically and effortlessly solves a major problem faced by all choreographers attempting to create a dance-drama — to explain complicated relationships through movements — and successfully renders a tone to the drama that draws the audience into the narrative.
One factor contributing to the success of Thunderstorm is the vivid character rendering. For this, the thoughtful editing of the play, which has given sufficient time for each role to develop its character with movements, is crucial. The authoritative but failing father (performed by Huang Lei); the luscious, repressed, but revolting and malicious mother (performed by Tina Hua); the smothered, heavy-hearted, and guilty-conscious elder son (performed by Li De); the sunny, bouncy, and worry-free younger son (performed by Li Long-hin); and, the deft, pleasant, and adorable maid (performed by Li Cheng), all have their own solos that fluently portray their characters. Rendering characters through dance movements is nothing new, but the credibility and clarity achieved in Thunderstorm is outstanding. To accomplish this, Xing's choreography is clearly different from works he has previously choreographed: in order to flesh out his characters he refrained from using his usual brilliant movement language for which he has a great talent. The choreography was well tailored for the dancers, who present a compelling performance. The dramatic accuracy infused in the characters is seldom seen in dance performance, which is certainly due to the contribution of Tang's directorship.
Another unique quality of Thunderstorm is the dramatic tension it created. Without a single word being spoken, Xing's choreography and Tang's directorship use movements to build up the tension of the drama. The tension is especially palpable in Scene 2, Taking the Medicine. Involving all the major characters, it could be considered as the center piece of the production. It is particularly effective and powerful in illustrating the characters of, and complicated relationships among, the parents and the elder son. The tension developed was gripping. However, not all the scenes are filled with movements. The short scene with the maid and her mother (performed by Iris Sun) in which they slowly walk diagonally across the stage in the dark, each slightly fanning a palm-leaf fan, was simply designed, but provided the drama with a moment of tranquillity before the arrival of the climax, and effectively rendered the simple and placid relationship between mother and daughter, a sharp contrast to the relationships and tensions in the Zhou's family.
Overall, Thunderstorm is a focused experiment of dance-drama between Xing and Tang. They do not try to be ‘ingenious’, which is often mistaken as the only way to be creative, but to tackle the task with a down-to-earth approach. It is also a rare example of true collaboration and cross-media production in the sense that the dance and drama are not separable and they are well balanced and brilliantly complete. In a dance scene that is replete with 'invention', 'collaboration', and 'cross-media' but that often lacks even a fundamental understanding of any of these, the triumph of Thunderstorm is inspiring.
客席編輯Guest Editor: 劉秀群Cathy Lau Sau Kwan ｜ 翻譯Translation：施德安 Cecil Sze