Contemporary Dance

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!”

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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”.


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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”.

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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 

 

Strings, Simplicity & Sheer Movement - A Dance Review on "Lullaby"

A Dance Performance Review on ArTISTREE SELECTS: Panta Rei Danseteater’s Lullaby

A lullaby suggests song, innocence, youth and protection. Directly addressed in the title Lullaby, Panta Rei Danseteater’s dance production invokes subtle undertones of these images and meanings to shed light on today’s political climate around the world. As part of ArtisTree’s Moving Pieces dance season,  Panta Rei Danseteater (Oslo, Norway) performed a double-bill dance production entitled Lullaby. Featuring live musical accompaniment and three virtuosically powerful male dancers, Lullaby was an overwhelming performance experience that traversed a spectrum of emotions.  

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Part 1

Preluding with a live string duo, an atmosphere of peace and tranquility was immediately established. As the music performed by Gustavo Tavares and Sverre Indris Joner continued to build, the jovial and playful movements of the three male dancers, Matias Rønningen, Johnny Autin, and Robert Guy escalated into forceful and impactful movements that formed hostilely aggressive relationships amongst the dancers. Choreographed by Anne Holck Ekenes and Pia Holden, this piece displayed a contrast between the play of games and the play of power. The simple act of mirroring movement was innovatively explored, as one dancer moved  as a soloist but in synchronisation with another dancer who was dancing in a duo. The play on cause and effect was so compelling. Suggesting that one can be affected by tensions without being physically touched.

The music composed by Sverre Indris Joner was filled with such care and detail, creating moments in which the melodies of universal lullabies could be faintly heard under the starkly melancholic score. The basic wooden school chairs were more than just props, as they signified territories, barricades, rest, unity and division. There was strength in the use of relatable symbols, from the costumes that were casual and recognisable, to the gestures that were clearly identifiable. The first part of Lullaby explored dark and intense themes that kept us locked on the edge of our seats . 

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Part 2

Returning to their instruments after changing into a suit and bowtie, a new beginning was set. The stage set itself was changed, as the wooden school chairs were replaced with 6 white toddler chairs with cute cartoon silhouettes of animals engraved into the middle struts of the backrest. Opening with an upbeat and jazzy music score, a spotlight hovered over one of the male dancers who was all suited up in black with a dapper smirk on his face. The contemporary dance movements of the three males were so fluid, dynamic and dazzling that they seemed to mimic qualities similar to a magician. Playing with the toddler chairs as though playing musical chairs, the second part of Lullaby showcased the juvenile lightheartedness of this seven letter word. The humorous use of language and numbers was ingeniously used by choreographer Hélène Blackburn and dramaturge Kjell Moberg. The use of lighting created this mystical magical mood as lighting designer Joakim Brink strategically placed the timing of the lighting effects in line with the dancer’s movements. In juxtaposition with the first part of the production, tensions were low and spirits were high as the performers banded together to display their humorous wit and vitality. 

Rising to the occasion, Panta Rei Danseteater’s dance production of Lullaby uses various elements of art and theatre to take its audience on an emotional journey. Challenging us all to think critically and playfully about the world we live in.

WIN a chance to see one of the amazing dance performances during ArtisTree’s dance season of Moving Pieces! Click here for more details.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of ArtisTree and Panta Rei Danseteater. Photos by: Trine Sirnes

Back to School & Back to the Barre

A List of Dance Schools in Hong Kong

It’s time to go back to school and back to the barre! Most dance studios begin their new school year in September, so now’s the time to get moving and grooving. Wondering where to learn dance in Hong Kong? Not to worry, as Hong Kong Dance Moms has got you covered. To help you find the right fit, we’ve listed nearly 200 dance schools in Hong Kong!

With so many dance schools in Hong Kong, it can be difficult to narrow down your options. Hong Kong Dance Moms has created a directory of all the dance schools in this great big city, which you can visit by clicking here. We’ve categorised the studios under twelve different dance styles, so that you can easily navigate and discover the diversity of Hong Kong’s dance community! 

Want to know a little bit more about each dance style? Read on and find the groove that suits you!

All-Round

The majority of dance studios in Hong Kong offer multiple dance styles and classes to provide students with a one-stop service that allows for more options and versatility in their body training. Primarily offering foundational dance styles such as ballet, jazz and contemporary, these studios may also branch out into hip-hop, urban dance, yoga, pilates, and supplemental strength and flexibility training. Studios like this are important in creating well-rounded dance artists. Plus, it is more convenient for students as they get to learn multiple dance styles under one roof. 


Ballet

Known as one of the foundational forms of dance technique, ballet is great for developing flexibility, strength, agility, and artistry. Ballet is often epitomized as graceful and elegant, but if you ever speak with someone who has learned this highly intense dance form, they will tell you that it is so much more. It trains your body to be dynamic and versatile, adapting your movements from soft and controlled, to sharp, powerful and expansive. On top of all that, ballet requires dancers to be expressive, tapping into their deepest emotions to create presence and communication through their face and body. Ballet can be taught under 3 different training systems; Vaganova (Russian ballet method), Royal Academy of Dance (UK-based), and Cecchetti (Italian-based). There is a lot of cross-over between these three methods, but there are also some variations amongst the movement vocabulary and the execution of dance steps. Ballet does include pointe work, but this is not for the faint of heart, as it is only taught to intermediate dancers who have developed the appropriate strength, stability and agility. Though ballet is known for being a tough, strict and serious dance form, it also has a fun side to it! The challenge is part of the fun, executing new movements and testing the limits of your body and artistry. Plus, you get to play different characters and roles when learning repertoire. Aside from the technical aspect of ballet, the determination, passion and perseverance required to master this art form is also what provides a great starting point in your dance training. 


Jazz

Showcasing sharp, slick and stylish movements, Jazz is all about technique, flair, finesse and sass. Though it shares some similar foundational dance vocabulary with ballet, Jazz dance is a more showy and commercial style of dance that is performed to upbeat music such as pop, rock, or jazz. Great for boosting your confidence and elevating your dance tricks, jazz dance brings you out of your box. Don’t get me wrong, Jazz dance still requires a lot of hard work, skill and discipline, but it also allows you to dance to your favourite tunes while feeling the glitz and glam of the spotlight.


Hip Hop & Urban Dance

With its roots in America, Hip Hop and Urban Dance branches out to so many different dance forms such as breaking, popping & locking, waacking, jazz funk, boogaloo, and the list goes on. Sure it may look “cool”, but it goes beyond superficial aesthetics, and into a deeper understanding of dance, culture and identity. Hip Hop is about finding your groove, your style, your voice and putting a mark on it. While you still learn foundational movements, Hip Hop embraces the distinctiveness of your mannerisms and natural movement qualities. Rather than trying to look like everyone else, hip hop challenges you to create your own style and image. Not to mention, it is great for training your strength, memory, agility, attitude and body isolations. 


Chinese Dance

In the heart of Hong Kong, lies a rich bounty of heritage, art and culture. While preserving important art forms and traditions, Chinese Dance also keeps up with the times and incorporates modern day elements and aesthetics. With a wide range of Chinese Dance styles that originate from different regions in China, there are so many different styles within this form that test a dancer’s versatility and adaptability. Known for its strict training regimen and disciplinary studio environment, Chinese Dance is also a very vibrant and dynamic dance form, as it has many dances with props such as hand fans, handkerchiefs, swords, lanterns, and much more!


Tap

Tap dance is the meeting point of rhythm, musicality, and movement. Learn complex rhythms and footwork that test the coordination of your mind and body. Heavily used in Musical Theatre, Tap dance is all about feeling the beat and being one with the rhythm. 


Rhythmic Gymnastics & Acrobatics

The first word that comes to mind is flexibility. However, strength, dynamics and agility are just as important in rhythmic gymnastics and acrobatics. Dance training itself cannot always develop the strength and flexibility that is required of an elite dancer. Therefore, many dancers also learn gymnastics and acrobatics in their early training to create a stronger foundation for their dance technique.


Latin & Ballroom Dance

Unlike most dance styles, Latin & Ballroom Dance introduces students to partnering work from day one. Dancing with a partner requires deep listening and an understanding of trust and support. Both parties in a couple must carry the weight and work impeccably as a team. Latin and Ballroom Dance feature both classical and upbeat dance styles. The fierceness of a Latin dancer is incomparable, and the poise of a ballroom dancer is utterly breathtaking. 


Learning Centres & Creative Dance

Catered towards preschool children and early childhood learning & development, learning centres offer students the basic foundations of academics, creativity and the arts. Various learning centres will offer creative dance classes for preschool children to introduce them to movement, music and imagination. The dance styles taught at learning centres emphasize learning development and growth rather than focusing on strong dance technique.


Flamenco

Fierce and fiery is this highly musical and intense dance form originating from Spain. Build strength in your rhythm, and power in your body with flamenco dance as you stomp and clap to create your own intricate and complex rhythms. 


Bollywood & Belly Dance

Ain’t no party like a bollywood party! Take a trip to India with the energetic and lively movements and music of Bollywood. You can’t help but smile when dancing Bollywood, it provides fun movement for the soul. Move towards the Middle East and discover the suppleness and fluidity of Belly dancing. A true test of isolation and controlling the body, Belly dance will have you moving seamlessly.


Irish Dance

Riverdance your way to stardom with Irish Dance! Work on your body alignment and posture, and discover some fancy footwork as your dabble into the world of jigs, reels and hornpipes.

Ready to discover the rhythm of the night (...or day if you’re a morning person)? Check out our Hong Kong Dance Schools Listing!

Photo Credit: Ivandrei Pretorius from Pexels

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