Performance

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

Dance Costumes Made to Wow!

Bring that va-va-voom and wow factor to the stage, because we’re featuring some of the most amazing dance costumes from past professional dance productions. Get inspired and add a bit of pizzazz to your next casual Friday outfit!

 

Puttin’ On The Ritz with all that Glitz

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Put on your chicest pair of sunglasses before you hit the theatre, because this costume glimmers, glares and sparkles! First staged by The Royal Ballet, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a spectacular ballet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. The feet of eight dancers on pointe appear In the iconic scene where the caterpillar enters the stage. As if the synchronised movements of the ballerinas weren’t spectacular enough, they each wore a pair of royal blue pointe shoes embellished with crystals. The entire performance features the creative ingenuity of Bob Crowley’s costume designs. Besides the beautiful dancing and choreography that goes into a production, it’s important to recognise the role of the many artistic elements that bring this vision to life.

 

Borrowing from the Past

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Fashion is all about finding a balance between the past, present and future. When costume designers create innovative costumes for a dance production, they tend to borrow from the past and project the future. Hong Kong Dance Company’s production of Red Poppies featured a wealth of culture, heritage, and innovative designs. Borrowing elements of traditional Tibetan garments, Cui Binghua’s costumes incorporate intriguing designs while showcasing the beauty of Liu Lingli’s choreography. Chinese Dance costumes are known to marry fashion with function, creating a relationship in which the movement and the garments complement one another.

 

The Bigger, The Better

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“After all imagination is a beautiful thing” – Zora Neale Hurston

Reminding us where our creativity ignites, Alexei Ratmansky’s ballet Whipped Cream is all about releasing your wildest dreams. Performed by The American Ballet Theatre, this playful storyline is big and bold. The costumes designed by Mark Ryden are inspired by our favourite childhood candies, treats and pastries. Make sure to watch this ballet on a full stomach, or you’ll be growling for the next hour and a half.

 

‘Werk’ that Quirk

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Turning Hong Kong’s extreme working culture, into a technicolor ‘werking’ culture is Hong Kong Ballet’s 40th Anniversary ad campaign. It’s not easy to pull off these neon colours, let alone doing it in ballet tights and leotards. But Hong Kong Ballet brings out the fun and quirky characteristics of Hong Kong, while staying true to the strength, power and beauty of ballet.

 

Light it up!

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Kwok’s Kung Fu & Dragon Lion Dance Team is transforming tradition by lighting up local Hong Kong festivities with an LED Lion Dance. As the leader of the dance troupe, Andy Kwok is all about keeping up with the times while still honouring heritage and tradtion. The LED Lion Dance features lights on the costume that are coordinated to the rhythm of the music. These lions know how to break it down on the dance floor with some hip hop, and they can literally light up any party!

A dash of Pumpkin Spice

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Cinderella is notoriously known for her glass slipper and pumpkin carriage, two things that no one in their right mind would ever bring to a ball (though I’m sure someone from the Met Gala could prove me wrong). Nevertheless, Cinderella is a fairytale…which means that anything goes! James Kudelka’s ballet production of Cinderella performed by The National Ballet of Canada was filled with imaginatively fantastical costumes. David Boechler’s costume designs featured the classical elements of ballet, whilst adding light-hearted humour to this ‘all too serious’ art form. The mascot-like pumpkin heads that the male dancers wore during the waltz scene was just the right amount of pumpkin spice!

Thou Costume is Blazing

To dance or not to dance, that is the question. To dance, obviously! Crystal Pite’s contemporary choreographic work, The Tempest Replica is based on motifs of Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. Performed by Kidd Pivot, these dancers are transformed into unworldly beings by Nancy Bryant’s brilliant costumes. These designs are no basic plain white T-shirts, the details are in the seams from head to toe.

Fashion is not exclusive to the runway or red carpets, it’s everywhere we go, but it is also an important part of dance. So next time you catch a dance performance, pay attention to the other artistic elements of the performance and see what you discover!


Photo Credits: 1. Photo by Dean Alexander, Courtesy of Hong Kong Ballet | 2. Photo by Johan Persson, Courtesy of The Royal Ballet © ROH / Johan Persson 2013 | 3. Photo by Crystal Kwok, Courtesy of Hong Kong Dance Company | 4. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy of American Ballet Theatre | 5. Photo by Dean Alexander, Courtesy of Hong Kong Ballet | 6. Photo by Kyle Ford | 7. Photo by Bruce Zinger, Courtesy of The National Ballet of Canada | 8. Photo by Jörg Baumann, Courtesy of Kidd Pivot







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

Red Poppies review – A Junction of Theatrics, Cultural Heritage, and Dance

Building a surge of intensity with the sound of Tibetan Longhorns and powerfully percussive beats, Red Poppies reveals a wealth of cultural heritage and dance through a theatrical performance.

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Making its fourth run in Hong Kong, this collaboration project between Hong Kong Dance Company and Sichuan Province Song and Dance Theatre Company adapts a traditional Tibetan tale written by Alai into a dance drama.

Depicting the story of a ruling family torn by power and ethics, this epic dance drama pairs cultural traditions with a timeless story that poses relevance to our world today.

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At first, the movements choreographed by Liu Lingli appear to be unfamiliar to our everyday understanding of modern-day dance vocabulary, occupied by crouched postures, wide boisterous stances and large waddling strides. Overtime, spectacular turns, swift jumps, and flips begin to catch our eyes. Creating the perfect timeline for story development, Red Poppies blends drama, love and morals into a full-length evening performance.

Just like binge watching a Netflix series, a viewer cannot help but become totally absorbed into this world. Settling into this storyline crafted by dynamic movements, gestures, songs by Liang Zhongqi, text by Bai Xiaochuan, and extravagant props and sets, the performance takes various loops and turns.

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Regardless of whether or not a dance drama may be your cup of tea, the costume and set design in itself is worth witnessing. Designed by Cui Binghua, the costumes were so vibrant and lush with various layers, embellishments and intricate details. Watch out Fashion Week 2020! Truly an all or nothing set & props designer, Zhang Jiwen brings pure brilliance with the raining effect of wheat kernels that fall from the ceiling, creating a scenic backdrop.

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Hong Kong Dance Company’s very own Huang Lei danced with such strength, presence and commitment to his role of Chieftain Maichi. Lei embodied his character down to every detail, gesture and mannerism. The contrasting roles of the stark and stoic Elder Son and the klutzy but kind Younger Son were matched perfectly. A villainous performance was made by Zhu Zhuoran of Hong Kong Dance Company as he took on the role of the Elder Son. The Younger Son of this brother duo was performed by Pei Zihao of Sichuan Song and Dance Theatre Company. Bringing fire and finesse to the stage was the beautiful Tana, performed by Zhao Xiaojing of Sichuan Song and Dance Theatre Company. The pairing of these dance artists from two dance companies made for an exciting performance.

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Red Poppies is a junction for theatrics, cultural heritage, dance, music and art. Forming a new appreciation and understanding for art and culture, this was truly an outstanding performance!

Photo credits: Tony Lee & Henry Wong