International

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







Double Agents of Dance

Film Stars who also Double as Dancers

It’s not uncommon for actors, musicians, dancers and artists to cross-over various different art forms. To be a master at your own craft, it sometimes takes years of accumulating different skills, knowledge and practices to reach a certain level of mastery. These actors and actresses who’ve made it to the big screen also double as dancers!

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Tom Holland

Ever wonder why Spider-Man is so limber? It could very well be because of his ability to bust out some sweet Spidey moves on the dance floor! Tom Holland who is the lead actor of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, has trained in gymnastics, ballet, and has also dabbled in parkour. Having made his dancing debut in West End’s Billy Elliot: The Musical, Holland has transformed himself from triple threat to superhero.

 

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Alicia Vikander

Leaping and pacing along the docks of Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Harbour (an iconic scene) is Alicia Vikander, who played the role of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Any dancer could appreciate the level of physicality Vikander demonstrates in this film. Though she did rock climbing, weight training, boxing, and bicycling to prepare for her role, Vikander stated in an interview with the Associated Press that “nothing is gonna be harder than ballet”. Training as a ballet dancer at the Royal Swedish Ballet School and the School of American Ballet, Alicia Vikander credits her many years of dance training for shaping her into the actress she is today.

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Harry Shum Jr.

It’s no secret that Harry Shum Jr. is a dancing talent, having played the role of a dancer on the hit television series, Glee and two of the Step Up films. Finding his groove to move in high school, Shum was inspired by Gene Kelly and Michael Jackson. Known for mastering various urban dance styles, what are the chances that we might see him ‘break it down’ in Crazy Rich Asians 2?

 

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Emily VanCamp

Putting the agent in “double agent”, Emily VanCamp played an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. Her role as a double agent in ABC’s television series, Revenge, most definitely brought out her dancing roots. Growing up, VanCamp originally wanted to be professional dancer. Emily VanCamp studied ballet under the pre-professional training programs at École supérieure de ballet du Québec and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Transferring her grands battements into side kicks, she takes the theatre stage to the movie set!

Dance is one way of understanding the mind and body, it tests our limits with both physical and mental challenges. Don’t undermine the intensity of dance training, as it has been known…and proven to shape versatilely multi-talented artists.

Photo Credits: Dancewear Centre, Courtesy of Sony Pictures, Mariano Vivanco, Miko Lim, and Tyler Shields

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

The Big Leagues of Latin & Ballroom Dance

An Inside Look into the 2019 Asia International Dance Championships

Maybe you’ve seen hit television series like ‘Dancing with the Stars’ or ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, but none of these compare with the experience of a live international Latin and Ballroom dance championship. We’re here to give you an inside look into all things Cha Cha Cha!

Hong Kong Dance Moms attended the 2019 Asia International Dance Championships right here in Hong Kong and interviewed Mark Robertson, the Managing Director of the hosting organisation, DansinnHeavenly.

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With several hundred amateur, youth, and professional dance competitors from all around the world, and over 500 audience members, this event was like the Olympics of Latin and Ballroom dance. There were dance competitors from Russia, China, Hong Kong, USA, Canada, Ukraine, Macau, Lithuania, Taiwan, South Korea, Sweden, United Kingdom, Iceland, Poland, Australia, Denmark, Thailand, Slovenia, South Africa, Germany, Japan, England, Italy, and the Philippines. As well as iconic Ballroom and Latin dance adjudicators from Great Britain, China, Russia, Norway, South Korea, Denmark, USA, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau and Japan.

What is the Asia International Dance Championships (AIDC), and how did it all begin?

M.R: The AIDC started in 2015, and in Hong Kong we [DansinnHeavenly] have been running a dance studio for many years, and have employed some of the top dancers and trainers in the world. We wanted to bring a high international, top class event to Hong Kong, because the Hong Kong crowds are real dance aficionados. The diehards travel all over to follow some of these top competing couples, so they are a very intelligent and educated audience. Therefore, we wanted to bring them to Hong Kong rather than them always having to travel overseas, and that’s how AIDC was born. Since then, we’ve grown year by year.

What are some significant features of Ballroom and Latin dance?

M.R: Latin and Ballroom are two different dance styles. In Ballroom, the couple tends to remain together, with flowing gowns, dresses, elegant movement and more classical music. Whereas Latin uses exotic beats from Latin America, Brazil, and Spain. Within Latin, there are more exotic costumes, vibrant sounds, movements, and not so much of a fixed hold, but there is open choreography as well. So these are very different styles, yet both very elegant in their execution as well.

What are the different competition categories within the Asia International Dance Championships? 

M.R: The different categories are the “Under 21”, which is our youngest category for contestants between the ages of 16-20. Then there are the Latin and Ballroom categories which are followed by the ProAm, which basically means a professional-amateur partnership. This is basically a student-teacher dance partnership, which is a very popular and expanding category. We’ve divided up ProAm into single dances, multi-dances (like a three dance challenge), and then a scholarship (a championship, which is a five dance challenge) to allow people flexibility, a varied selection and mix. Lastly, we have the Amateur and Professional categories.


How do Ballroom and Latin Dance competitions work?

M.R: Essentially what happens in the competition is a series of knockout rounds. For instance, with the Amateur Latin category they will dance and compete in four rounds. Let’s say in the first round they start with 48 couples, so then in the second round there will only be 24 couples left in competition. In the semi-finals the remaining couples will be half of the second round, and then half again into the final. That’s the essential structure of the competition.

What are the judges looking for?

M.R: Amongst the Ballroom and Latin categories, each discipline has their own required criteria. In my area of specialty, which is Latin, judges are looking for presence, timing, musicality, posture, partnering, elegance, and of course there are other fundamental and technical requirements. These then become deeper and more profound when you get to the top and the margins are much less, so it becomes a lot more defined. We’re so blessed to have an internationally acclaimed panel of adjudicators from all over the world who we bring over to adjudicate, which also adds to the value and prestige of the event. The couples want to participate, because they know that they’re also being judged by these experts.

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What is the training regimen like for a professional Ballroom and Latin dancer?

M.R: It’s literally a fulltime job, these dancers are absolute artists, experts in their profession, and they’re athletes as well. They are practicing and training every single day, including visits to the gym, nutritionists, private lessons with their coaches/trainers/expert teachers, and are travelling all over the world. They are also demonstrating, competing, teaching, and conducting workshops. When they start to get to the higher echelons of their status and ranking, it is a full time job.

What types of career opportunities are there for Ballroom and Latin dancers?

M.R: A dancer can become a teacher, a coach, an adjudicator, a dance studio owner, a lecturer, or a performer. They can essentially cover all of them, and will gradually start to work out which ones are their preferred ones, and their greater skill sets. And they will gradually become a master, at one or several of these professions.

From your own experience, what advice do you have for young aspiring Ballroom and Latin dancers?

M.R: I started dancing when I was 7, and for me I feel that I’ve been completely blessed to have an amazing childhood by dancing. I truly loved it, truly enjoyed it, and was never pushed into it by my parents. I’ve made friends for life, also some who are here today, we’ve grown together in the business. It is such a great social community. It is healthy, and you definitely avoid boredom as a kid. As a dancer, you have no time to do anything else but dance. It’s such a beautiful art form that combines artistry and sport. It is fantastic, and we truly love our business and are blessed to be making this our profession and our passion.

For anyone interested in learning more about the Asia International Dance Championships, visit their website here.

Dance is known for its element of live performance, so when you get a chance to see it live, you should jump at the opportunity! Whether it’s a performance, workshop, class, or in this case a championship, dance will literally move you.