Choreography

What’s in a Contemporary Dancer’s Bag? With the National Dance Company Wales

People often look up to big name singers, athletes, and movie stars, but for every young aspiring dancer out there, it’s a different story. Looking up to professional dancers, renowned choreographers, and dancing legends, these are our idols. Besides our interest in a professional dancer’s training routine and performances, we’re also curious about the little things, like a professional dancer’s favourite warm-up tune, or even what’s inside a dancer’s bag!

Unzipping our most burning questions for the dancer-on-the-go, Hong Kong Dance Moms (HKDM) sat down with three of the company dancers from the National Dance Company Wales while they were on tour in Hong Kong as part of ArtisTree Selects: Moving Pieces. Sporting our exclusive HKDM dance bags, dancers Cyril Durand-Gasselin, Marine Tournet and Julia Rieder gave us an inside look into their dance bags, sharing their invaluable rehearsal, performance and preparation tips! 


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Cyril Durand-Gasselin

Greeting us with a warm and friendly smile was Cyril Durand-Gasselin, who has been a full-time dancer with the company since 2017. Having recently performed in the National Dance Company Wales’ Double-Bill Performance in Hong Kong, Cyril moves with flawless precision and a presence that can fill an entire stage. From discussing his own supplemental dance training to advocating hydration, Cyril gave us some insightful tips.

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What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

C.DG.: “For rehearsal, of course my dance clothes, just because I like to wear city clothes when I’m outside. I have my bottle of water, it’s really important. I have knee pads, it’s not the protective ones. I mean I could have this, but it’s in case during the day you have a weak knee, it can be really useful to use it.

I have a notebook that’s really important in the creative process, or during rehearsal, if I need to take notes or just find ideas for myself. I have two tennis balls in socks for massaging. I also have a cereal bar, because of course during the day you need some time to get energy back if you’re feeling a bit tired. 

Cyril Bag

I have my headphones which is useful if you just want to have a moment for yourself to listen to music without disturbing anyone. Or if during a rehearsal, I’m asked to work on something on my own, I’ll use my headphones on the side to work on my section in the piece of choreography. I have my glasses, but I wear contact lens because it’s really hard to dance with glasses. There is some paracetamol in case I have a headache, though I just need to make sure that I don’t take it before I go and dance, because when you have pain in your body it’s better to feel it so that you don’t get injured more. For performance, I have my jock strap and my makeup, and that’s the only difference”.

Cyril

What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

C.DG.: “It’s my bottle of water, because I think it’s really important. You always need to drink water”. 

What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

C.DG.: “I wouldn’t say I have a specific one, I just fold my clothes correctly and I try to put my pants on the side, and all the t-shirts on the other side. And in the center, all my makeup and toiletries. And because I like to do yoga, I’ll put my yoga mat in there which is quite hard to fit, but when placed lengthwise it works!”

Cyril interview

What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

C.DG.: “My best advice would be to take care of your body, because this is the tool you’ll use all your life if you want to be a dancer. So it’s really important to eat healthy and drink a lot of water. But also to think physically about balancing the body. For example, when doing a certain choreographic movement, most of the time you won’t do right and left. So you end up working one side of the body more than the other. Before or after class, stretch or do some strengthening to get the body balanced. I’m using yoga for example, so I think yoga is a really nice tool to do that and to centre and balance the body”.


Marine

Marine Tournet

A freelance dancer and former full-time dancer with the company, Marine Tournet’s humble, kind and optimistic comportment was absolutely contagious! Creating disjunct movements with her body, Marine’s movement style has an utterly unique and inspirational flair. Highlighting the importance of having a healthy and positive mind in dance, Marine gave us her personal life mantras that have taken her far in her dance career.

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What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

M.T.: “For rehearsal, I always have deodorant because it’s important. Also in the U.K., it’s always important to have an umbrella and tissues as well. I always take this little towel to wipe up the sweat after class or during rehearsal. I have this pouch of medicine, and tiger balm incase I injure myself or if I am sore. This is a foot roller to massage the feet either before or after rehearsal. This is a theraband to stretch or exercise the legs, depending on what you need. I have an extra t-shirt in case I’m too sweaty and need to change, and also a pair of shorts and a pair of trousers. Depending on the work we do, I need to change sometimes. This is a foam roller, usually I just leave it in the company studio, so I don’t need to bring it everyday. But it’s really nice to roll over the muscles, the legs and the back. 

And I always have my ipod with me, I don’t actually use it when we rehearse like some people do to warm-up. I actually use it more for auditions to focus on myself and be in my bubble and centre. But for a normal warm-up in the company, I don’t really use it. 

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I always have my water bottle, it’s very important. For a performance, the only difference would be bringing my makeup and hair kit. I also bring my warm-up shoes to wear between rehearsals and the show, and in the evening I will wear them to keep my feet warm”.

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What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

M.T.: “I think it would be my hairbands, because it would be a problem if I didn’t have any!”


What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

M.T.: “I would like to have one, because I don’t have one. I just squish everything into my luggage and sit on it”.

Marine’s Take Care Tip: To help dancers with any pain or soreness, Marine recommends macadamia oil mixed with a few drops of wintergreen essential oil.

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What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

M.T.: “To always be positive. Even when you go through a hard time, especially if you get injured, you can get depressed very easily. Especially if you see your friends who keep dancing, and you come to class to watch them on the side. It can be a very hard time, but just know that it is going to go away soon and you’ll recover. And you can learn a lot through watching as well, so it’s important to watch. 

Be a sponge. Whenever the teacher gives a correction, even if it’s not for you, just always take it for yourself as if it was for you, because that’s how you learn. Just keep watching everyone, and taking everyone’s corrections

Watch videos! I spent my life watching videos on Youtube when I was younger and wanted to be a dancer. I watched a lot of ballet videos, because I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I just watched a lot of things and went to see shows, to learn about the dance world outside; all the choreographers, all the styles, it’s very important to know and learn about everything. 

Be curious, even if it’s not dance related, it will always be beneficial to maybe learn about acting or martial arts or music… or anything! You will find out later that it can relate to dance in a way that you didn’t know before. So stay curious and learn! Be generous, be yourself and be honest with yourself and with the people around you. The only competition is with yourself, it’s not with the others. Believe in yourself, and trust your body and its knowledge. Trust your body, because it knows if you can keep pushing or not. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and work with them intelligently”.


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Julia Rieder

Having danced full-time with NDCWales for the last two years, Julia Rieder creates a serene atmosphere with her poise, maturity, and sweet smile. Moving fluidly as though submerged in water, Julia dances with such tranquility, clarity and flow. Creating a checklist of things to bring in our dance bag may be one thing, but Julia sheds light on the most important thing to bring to rehearsal, an open mind and body.

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What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

J.R.: “In my dance bag, I’ll never go to class without my water bottle. A reusable one, not plastic. I have tennis balls for massage. I have some tiger balm to heat the muscles. And for class, I bring a little snack for breaks. And then the essentials, some tissue, some plasters. I have a little pocket where I put all the urgent stuff. Some hair pins, phone, headphones, charger, and knee pads just in case we do lots of floorwork”.

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What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

J.R.: “I’d probably say water or a snack. Just because you couldn’t go even half a day without fuel”.


What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

J.R.: “I usually roll my clothes to make more space in my luggage. It’s quite basic, just monitor the amount of dance clothes you need for class as well as some change of clothes because you will sweat a lot. But the usual things, and some city clothes as well just in case we visit some sites and do not want to look too casual”.

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What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

J.R.: “It’s lots of hard work, but don’t overthink too much because a lot can happen by luck. It takes some luck to do everything you wish for. 

Just enjoy the ride, because there are so many occasions to connect with people and great audiences as well. Enjoy every night, and take what’s there for you as if it were the last time. 

It makes your day full. And staying open and balanced”.

julia interview

So now that the NDCWales has created the ultimate checklist for your next dance bag packing mission, be sure to pass on the torch and let the next generation of dancers know about your own personal life hacks in dance! Until next time, that’s a zip!

A Special Thanks to the National Dance Company Wales and ArtisTree!

The Invisible and Visible

A Dance Performance Review on ArtisTree Selects: Moving Pieces - National Dance Company Wales (Double-Bill Performance)

Returning to the stage for yet another year of mesmerizing dance performances at Hong Kong’s ArtisTree, was the National Dance Company Wales. Pulling out all the stops, they performed a double-bill featuring two energetically packed contemporary dance pieces titled, Tundra and Revellers’ Mass. These two performances contrasted in choreographic style, taste and themes, but they both explored concepts of ritual and culture.

 

Tundra

With microscopic mechanical movements that transformed into expansively rippling aftershocks, choreographer Macros Morau’s choreography displayed a sublime unworldliness with glimpses of recognizable symbols.  

Reconfiguring elements of Russian folk dance, Tundra transports us to a space and time that marries the past with the future. The electric-hued costumes designed by Angharad Matthews were stunning, as they featured geometric patterns that weaved a labyrinth of its own. As the eight dancers joined their limbs together, they abandoned their singularity to create mass movements that reflected the patterns in their costumes; a cycle of interweaving, breaking the pattern, and starting anew.

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The set and lighting designed by Joseff Fletcher was clean, simple and effective. As the stage floor resembled a thin sheet of ice, the lights created different climates from stark and cold to warm and inviting.

The music was eerie yet soothing, creating moments of ease and arrest. The patchwork of this puzzle pieced performance was seamlessly sewn, as the intricate patterns of choreography, music, costume and design interweaved from one to the next, creating a network of innovative craftsmanship.

 

Revellers’ Mass

Transcending through a spectrum of rituals, Revellers’ Mass explores various levels of volume on the human condition. Inspired by historic paintings, choreographer Caroline Finn torques and deconstructs common gestures and mannerisms into explosively wild and animalistic movements.

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The virtuous costumes designed by Gabriella Slade look deceivingly harmless at first sight, but as the story unfolds, the inseams reveal a chaotic world. The set and lighting designed by Joseff Fletcher set the tone for each level of volume explored. From a dark and moody lit stage, to a bright and bare theatre, the designs snapped us in and out of reality.

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From breaking down the body to deconstructing different characters, Revellers’ Mass makes visible what once was invisible.

National Dance Company Wales still has two more performances at Hong Kong’s ArtisTree in Quarry Bay, so don’t miss out! Click here for more details.

Photo Credits: Photos by Rhys Cozens. Courtesy of National Dance Company Wales 

 

Connecting through Choreography

A Dance Review of The 4th Hong Kong International Choreography Festival

Choreography is an act of creation where the body, movement, and life experiences all collide. When we witness a dance piece on stage, we get a glimpse into a choreographer’s mind, and when we witness dance pieces from local and international choreographers, we open our eyes to the world outside our own.

This year, Unity Space presented and produced the 4th Hong Kong International Choreography Festival (HKICF) at the Sheung Wan Civic Centre Theatre in Hong Kong. Featuring local and international dancers, choreographers and musicians, the festival began in early June where artists met, collaborated, and formed newfound friendships. At the end of the month, there were a series of performances showcasing thirteen different dance works over the course of three days. Hong Kong Dance Moms got a chance to witness the third and final performance, and it was truly visionary!

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Opening the evening with imagination and mystery was the contemporary dance piece titled Dark Bird choreographed by Saeed Hani Möller from Germany and Syria. His movements intertwined the human body with animalistic characteristics and mannerisms. The dancers transformed their bodies between emotions and different creatures that resembled horses, lions and snakes. Reminding us of our human connection to nature.

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Following this transformative work, was Peishan Chiew’s piece titled, Falling Like The Apple. Presenting her choreography all the way from Singapore, her movements showcased lifts and drops in which the dancers literally fell to the ground like apples. Not only proving Newton’s law of gravity, this work also explored the idea of fragility, and consumption. Rethinking how we look at objects, possessions and material.

Sharing the artistry of Greek choreographers Dionysios Alamanos & Danae Dimitriadi was their piece titled ATMA. Executing their movements, gestures and facial expressions with such detail, intricacy and commitment, this duet took us through an intense journey of the hunter and the hunted, the prey and the predator, weaving us through life’s elements of dissonance and harmony. The way Alamanos & Dimitriadi articulated and manoeuvred their fingers, hands and arms was intriguing to the naked human eye. Creating images for the audience that were both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

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Choreographed by the Artistic Director of Unity Space himself, Vangelis Legakis presented his work, MayBE. Performed by The Van-L Dance Company, this dance piece provided an experimental atmosphere of light, tranquility and simplicity. The humble manner of the performers created a lighthearted connection that allowed the audience to laugh and see beyond the walls of art and seriousness. Sometimes we forget that art wears many faces, and it’s not all that serious.

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To conclude the evening was Lewis Major’s choreography, Epilogue. Presented by Australia’s Lewis Major Projects company, this solo was performed effortlessly and flawlessly by Pascal Marty of France. Talcum powder covered the stage and the sole dancer who stood like a roman statue. With each movement, the powder drifted off his body like an old rustic ruin falling to dust. Moving between past and present, Major’s choreography zapped us through time with classical piano variations by Debussy, contrasted by remixed music sounds and contemporary dance movements. Epilogue was utterly classic and ethereal.

 

The week of performances, showcased other fantastic performances that featured artists from Argentina, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Australia, Vietnam, and China. The international representation of artists and dancers was awe-inspiring.

Dance is a portal for expression and communication that allows movers and artists to create. Choreography allows people to connect, connect the dots, connect with people, and connect with life. Hats off to the talented artists, choreographers and performers of the 4th Hong Kong International Choreography Festival!

Photo Credit: Unity Space