Poised to go professional

Updated: 2017-05-12 09:34

By Carmen Ho(HK Edition)

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The Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts launched its first festival to showcase works by young talents whom the institute has helped hone to very fine standards. A report by Carmen Ho.

The first-ever festival of student performances put together by the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) is on in full swing.

Until July 6 the students of HKAPA's six schools - Chinese Opera, Dance, Drama, Film and Television, Music, and Theatre and Entertainment Arts - who will soon take their degrees and be ready to take the skills they have acquired at HKAPA to the professional sphere, are showcasing their best works. Academy Festival 2017 is the pilot edition of what's going to be an annual event.

"There is such a wonderful range of talent. It is very exciting to see all the work coming together," says David Steele, dean of the School of Dance at HKAPA. "Hong Kong has a strong, active dance scene, and HKAPA can do more to develop that scene and take it forward," he adds.

The festival kicked off with the School of Dance Spring Performances on April 28. Australian choreographer Gabrielle Nankivell worked with HKAPA students of contemporary dance to create a performance piece called Cat Derive, where "the routines and rhythms of the city's inhabitants build a moving map that traces our shared environment".

"Each individual's idea of order is different. What's chaos for one may be orderly for the next," said Nankivell, elaborating on the idea informing Cat Derive.

London-based choreographer Cameron McMillan worked with ballet students to come up with a powerful work called The Inheritance of Form, in which they explored the scope of contemporary ballet. "By acknowledging and exploring a rigorous expansion of ballet's pure and physically formal architectural language base as a point of departure, we engage in the evolution and re-definition of the form and its realm of possibility, seeking to ask what ballet could be in the 21st century," said McMillan.

Chinese choreographer Gao Chengming has created a searching work called Fortunes with students from the Chinese Dance department, while HKAPA faculty member John Utans choreographed a piece called Faint Parallel Lines, which he described as "exploring ideas of simultaneous existence and thought". "The piece looks at the way different structures and patterns exist independently, in real life and in art and the moments when these patterns and paths cross over, collide or remain running side by side," said Utan.

Reaching out

Samuel Leong, chairman of the organizing committee of the festival and deputy director (academic) of HKAPA, noted that most events were un-ticketed as the idea was to ensure the greatest possible exposure for the students, rather than be guided by the logic of profit.

Steele too sounded keen to reach out and share the excitement over the cultural programs developed at the institute. "It's hugely important that people are able to witness it," he said.

"We're actually worried that the events will be over-subscribed as the previous graduate shows have been," quipped Leong.

"I hope more people will be interested in Chinese opera and see it as an art form that contains many elements," said Wong Ho-yau, a third-year student of Chinese opera who will be performing in the Gongs and Drums Cantonese Opera performance on May 26 and 27.

"I will be playing a male role this time. Chinese opera is much more contemporary now and the diversity of roles for female performers is improving," she added.

Eye on Asia

HKAPA is actively seeking out opportunities to collaborate with organizations and professionals in Hong Kong and beyond, including Beijing, Taiwan, South Korea and New York. According to Steele, the institute's School of Dance is trying to get New York City's renowned Trisha Brown Dance Company to come over to Hong Kong and conduct workshops for its students.

"That would be a valuable experience for any dance artist," said Steele. "It's important to share work and bring in visiting artists from around the world. But it's also our business to show our talent to those coming in, not just learn from them. It's really about sharing our expertise and intelligence in Asian cultures with the people who visit us."

Asia is at the heart of what HKAPA does, Steele added. The Academy's educational philosophy reflects the cultural diversity of Hong Kong with emphasis on Chinese and Western traditions, and interdisciplinary learning.

The Academy attracts not just Hong Kong students but also students from all over the world, Steele notes. "We try to get a balance between Asia and the West - that between bringing international people here but also making sure the quality and strength of the local work is represented," he said.

Students of performing arts in Hong Kong have a unique advantage in terms of exposure to very fine standards of art from the world over, given the city's rich and diverse cultural mix. Living in this cosmopolitan and business-oriented city also gives them a leg up on how to prepare for entering the job market of today's dynamic art and entertainment industry.

"It's a delicate balance between cultures, and we need to educate students to understand and value their heritage as well as their own experiences and perspectives. In order to innovate, you need to digest all that and see how it works for you," said Steele.

Poised to go professional

Poised to go professional

(HK Edition 05/12/2017 page1)