Updated: 2018-10-19 07:53

(HK Edition)

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Tai Kwun's maiden dance season delivers an array of power-packed performances, writes Chitralekha Basu.

Tai Kwun's maiden dance season, on until Oct 28, has thrown up a range of brilliant new shows so far. Still, one of the most sought-after shows was an old favorite, Mui Cheuk-yin's Diary VI: Applause which remains strikingly fresh even after 10 years in performance (see sidebar).

A combination of dance, theater, vintage romantic songs (Elvis Presley's It's Now or Never), footage showing a younger Mui in performance and spending time with the iconoclastic German dance choreographer Pina Bausch, Diary VI: Applause remains a sparkling piece of delicate beauty, marked by longing and introspection.

Once or twice in the piece Mui seems to take a step back, examining her work from the audience's point of view. The next moment she is back, with renewed energy and joie de vivre, emptying cartons of paper "snowflakes", making patterns on the floor using her nimble footwork, kicking up a virtual snowstorm. At 59, the doyenne of Hong Kong dancing seems to have just arrived at her prime.

Terrible beauties


Eddy Zee, head of performing arts at Tai Kwun, said in a recent interview that he wished to put on the kind of shows that Hong Kong's performance art scenario had been "missing". Indeed, Tai Kwun seems to have taken a no-holds-barred approach toward hosting and supporting a range of bold and not-particularly-beautiful recent experiments in performance art. The inaugural dance season lineup seems to underscore the fact that dance does not necessarily have to be easy on the eye to be exciting and/or meaningful.

Some of the pieces in the lineup might strike the unaccustomed eye as too amorphous to be even listed under dance. At one point in Bill Coleman's Dollhouse, for instance, the only movement on stage is of three pans juddering on hot plates, letting out steam (the sound art is by Gordon Monahan).

Coleman plays a man in the throes of a world collapsing around him. Following the chaos and disintegration of most of the props on stage, the dancer makes a passage through what could be a post-apocalyptic winter. The audience is left teetering with apprehension when he dances barefoot on a stage littered with pieces of broken plastic and open-mouthed rat traps.

Fresh and furious

As far as experiments go, Hong Kong choreographers Joseph Lee, K.T. Yau and Rebecca Wong have delivered work that's head-bludgeoningly different. All three pieces are about violence and repression at some level - probably fittingly so, given Tai Kwun's history.

In Lee's The World Was Once Flat, the omnipresence of the camera eye in human lives is caricatured most bizarrely while K.T. Yau's Confine makes imaginative use of Tai Kwun compound's 10-meter-high wall. Prison life is shown to have a reductive effect on basic human values. Dancers, playing inmates, form cliques, gang up on a fellow prisoner, maul and strip him down to his underwear, ultimately using him as a human battering ram, trying to force a breach in the wall.

Rebecca Wong's Bird-Watching was probably the most jaw-dropping of the new works put out by local choreographers, and not just because she appeared mostly nude in her solo act. The audience watched in stunned silence, almost forgetting to breathe, as Wong moved, snaking and heaving her way through a packed hall - a strange, agitated creature wriggling in and out of a never-ending Dali-esque flaming red costume by turns.

Giant caterpillar, newly-hatched birdling, predatory woman - Wong could have been impersonating any of these or none in particular. Then it hardly matters what her piece meant or if it at all was expected to be understood. At that moment, Wong had every other human being in Tai Kwun's F Hall in her power and that doesn't happen every day.


From left: Boldly experimental choreography was the hallmark of Rebecca Wong’s Bird-Watching, Bill Coleman’s Dollhouse and K.T. Yau’s Confine.

(HK Edition 10/19/2018 page11)