Hong Kong Dance Company:
dance between ancient and modern
Long Jing Yi
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Dance Company
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Dance Company
In the rehearsal hall of the Hong Kong Dance Company, the black floor was polished by dancing shoes. The performance of the work “Landscape” is approaching, a group of dancers and staff stay here for more than 9 hours a day.
Founded in 1981, the Hong Kong Dance Company is a professional Chinese dance troupe funded by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. It not only pays attention to the classical beauty of traditional Chinese dance, but also takes into account Hong Kong’s authentic culture and contemporary innovation. Multiple pursuits also mean many challenges.
Chinese dance is both ancient and young. Many people think that holding a fan and red silk is Chinese dance. “I want to break everyone’s established concept of traditional Chinese dance.” Artistic director Yang Yuntao said firmly.
Inheritance: Dance and Martial Arts
During the first half hour of the performance of “Shanshui”, there was no sound of music in the whole theater. The dancers gradually appeared on the stage like flowing water falling into a rocky stream, and the dancing posture combined with martial arts moves was both soft and firm. Above the stage hangs clouds and mists that seem to have fallen from an ink painting, and the audience is immersed in it together.
Yang Yuntao, the choreographer of “Shanshui”, was born in the mountains and rivers of ethnic minority villages in Yunnan. He has a rich dance experience, but he was once confused about Chinese dance and personal development.
In 2011, Yang Yuntao went to New York, USA for further study. In various dance performance venues, he is like a sponge, desperately absorbing nutrients in the ocean of dance art.
The unfamiliar environment gave Yang Yuntao space to think independently. After returning to Hong Kong, his goal became clear: “To develop our art, we must return to ourselves, return to traditional Chinese culture to explore and learn.”
There are many martial arts gyms in Hong Kong, and Yang Yuntao invited the masters to let the dancers practice directly. The “Interactive Research and Presentation of Chinese Dance and Chinese Wushu” project lasted for 3 years from 2018.
Practicing martial arts moves, such as zama stance, is not difficult for dancers. In the day-to-day practice, in addition to the soreness of the muscles, what is more important is the changes in the heart.
“When I want to make a calligraphy theme, if the dancers are all trained in Western ballet, the taste is not right.” Yang Yuntao hopes to explore a Chinese physical training method through martial arts, “Let dancers use A state of continuous inheritance, to express the theme of traditional Chinese culture.”
This is a long-term exploration, and it is also a training for dancers. “Landscape” has a lot of blank space in the stage design from the music to the scenery, “‘quiet’ is more difficult than ‘moving’. We are on the stage, and our eyes are always looking at the blackness. If we don’t concentrate enough, we may even feel dizzy. .” Senior dancer Ho Hao Fei graduated from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, majoring in Chinese Dance.
In the interview, Yang Yuntao repeatedly mentioned that traditional Chinese culture emphasizes the unity of the inside and the outside. “Dance sometimes overemphasizes the ‘outside’ movements and images. I want to use the spiritual connotation of traditional Chinese culture in martial arts to solve the dancer’s ‘inside’ problems. This is the most powerful thing in our East.”
Challenge: Sensibility and rationality
Pan Lingjuan is one of the principal dancers of the Hong Kong Dance Company. In the rehearsal hall, she was wearing a black dance dress like a crane on rice paper. After the interview, she neatly put her hair up and joined the rehearsal immediately.
“Give a little more shoulders” and “Take it back here”, in repeated adjustments, Yang Yuntao hopes that Pan Lingjuan will turn into “a dead leaf that is occasionally blown away”. This kind of charm originated from traditional Chinese culture is very subtle. They are constantly looking for the most precise movement texture, and practice repeatedly until muscle memory is formed.
Pan Lingjuan came to Hong Kong from the Mainland in 2011. At first, she was used to dancing with clear instructions, but she couldn’t adapt to the rhythm of the Hong Kong Dance Company. She laughed and said that she was often scolded, “Here, no one told me whether this movement looks good or not, and how to do my legs.”
During rehearsal, Yang Yuntao will only provide a framework and style, and then the dancers will create independently. He hopes that the Hong Kong Dance Company, like the city of Hong Kong, can see different individuals and allow dancers to discover the greatest possibility of their bodies.
Pan Lingjuan said that she is a very emotional person. She has played many classic roles in traditional Chinese culture, sometimes as the handsome Hua Mulan in “Mulan”, and sometimes as the soft and beautiful Nie Xiaoqian in “A Chinese Ghost Story”.
Each work requires different emotions and image temperaments. She gradually learned how to remember the dance steps, control the strength of the performance, and understand the intention behind the choreography in a state of selflessness. “I must be half of my sensibility is rational.” of”.
When “Landscape” was officially performed, the stage seemed to be an unfolding scroll, and the dancer’s body turned into a brush to start painting anywhere. Accompanied by the melody flowing from the guzheng played live, the dancing posture fully shows the majesty and tranquility of the mountains and rivers.
Although the two art forms of dance and ink painting are one in motion and one in stillness, Yang Yuntao believes that the two are interlinked, that they both change in motion and have expressive force. “I want to find a balance point and combine the essence of traditional Chinese culture and oriental philosophy. , combined with the body through different techniques.”
Breakthrough: cross-border and communication
After watching the performance of “Shanshui”, Mr. Chen, a senior “fan” of the Hong Kong Dance Troupe, was very excited: “I saw the ‘harmony between man and nature’ in traditional Chinese culture. The dancers’ dance and martial arts are so good, it is not easy. It is a big breakthrough.” He believes that this is a very representative cultural heritage.
The convergence of Chinese and foreign cultures in Hong Kong is a good “booster” for art. On the eighth floor of the Sheung Wan Civic Center, the dance troupe opened up the rehearsal room as an “eighth floor platform” experimental dance theater, allowing dancers to try to create experimental works.
In order to cultivate audiences, the dance troupe has been actively crossing borders. The martial arts dance dramas “Feng Yun” and “Chinese Heroes” were adapted from popular Hong Kong comics. The dance troupe brought water and yellow sand to the stage, which made the dance more difficult and enjoyable, and the effect was very shocking. Some readers said: “If you didn’t adapt this comic, I might never enter the theater in my life.”
Affected by the epidemic, the dance troupe’s foreign exchange plans in the past two years have been disrupted, but the preparation process is also a kind of learning and precipitation. Yang Yuntao expressed the hope that the Hong Kong Dance Troupe can win more exchange opportunities, let the audience know Hong Kong through its works, and show the traditional Chinese culture in the world through dance.
(According to Xinhua News Agency, Hong Kong)