Hong Kong Dance Company Kicks Off 40th Anniversary Celebration
Hong Kong Dance Company (HKDC) kicks off its 40th-anniversary programme with Shan Shui: An Ode to Nature, a brand new production inspired by Chinese ink painting. The troupe’s artistic director Yang Yuntao reveals what led to this new piece.
What is the inspiration behind Shan Shui: An Ode to Nature?
Shan Shui is a poetic piece inspired by traditional Chinese landscape ink paintings. When I look at an ink painting, I feel comfortable and free. As a dancer, that motivates me to think about how to express this feeling through body movements.
How is Shan Shui different from previous productions?
HKDC has created works inspired by Chinese paintings before, such as Qingming Riverside, a portrayal of Qing and Ming dynasty lives [performed at the Meet in Beijing 2008 arts festival to celebrate the Beijing Olympics] after we realised dance and art were interrelated. But Shan Shui isn’t based on one particular painting or place.
It’s our first production to be inspired by this genre of Chinese art. Chinese landscape paintings are about the imaginary spiritual world. In Chinese culture, the portrayal of nature is a reflection of the painter’s inner state of mind and her or his dialogues with nature, which I want to showcase in this performance. For our 40th anniversary this year, we want to present a piece [through which] people can appreciate the essence of Chinese traditions.
How do you incorporate Chinese ink art into dance?
Unlike western dance, which emphasises the techniques of body movements, I train my dancers’ inner minds. We’re not only imitating a brushstroke; we’re also feeling the solitude, awe or ethereal state expressed by the brush’s speed and style. It’s about how body movements and the spiritual state of an ink art painter can blend together as one.
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What does Shan Shui represent to the HKDC?
Shan Shui shows how far we’ve come on our journey in preserving Chinese culture. We offer the city a platform to explore beyond the shows we put on. Through Shan Shui I ask: how much do we know about our own traditions? A tradition doesn’t have to be something old. Our understanding of tradition can be contemporary when we learn about it, such as how an ink painting, even if it features an old landscape, stirs up the viewer’s feelings in that moment.
Where will the HKDC take Chinese dance next?
I aim to elevate our artistic expression and deepen our cultural nurturing. Hong Kong is a forward-thinking and multicultural city where there’s a deep-rooted fondness for the arts, such as ballet and classical music. We’re the only full-time, professional Chinese dance organisation in Hong Kong, so we have a duty to promote local dance. Traditional Chinese cultural practices, such as dance, ink painting and calligraphy, are worth rediscovering. The HKDC can do its part by tailoring our style to the times and turning people’s heads to traditional arts through dance.
May 21-23, 2021. Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Tsim Sha Tsui
This Season’s Highlights
Magical Adventures of Baby Polar Bear and the 12 Zodiac Animals
A re-run from the 2015 original young dancers’ show, this dance drama led by HKDC’s professional dancers tells the tale of 12 magical creatures—each with special talents—on a mission to rescue a polar bear family threatened by global warming.
August 13-22, 2021. Auditorium, Sha Tin Town Hall
This mini Cantonese opera and dance show is a modern interpretation of The Legend of the Purple Hairpin, a widely performed Cantonese opera. It details the tragic love between a female entertainer and the poet Li Yi in the Tang dynasty. This production combines Cantonese opera, music and dance, and won accolades at the 2019 Hong Kong Dance Awards.
September 24-26, 2021. Studio Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Tsim Sha Tsui
This classic was designed by Helen Lai, seven-time winner of the Hong Kong Dance Awards. The production was inspired by Chinese composer Tan Dun’s music and Nine Songs, Chinese poet Qu Yuan’s third-century BC epic. Premiering 30 years ago when contemporary dance was new in Hong Kong, it was described in Dance Journal HK as “the first work that showed [how] ‘dance could speak’”. November 26-27, 2021.
Grand Theatre, Xiqu Centre, West Kowloon Cultural District
City to City: Rediscovery
This triple bill brings together productions from Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore. The Hong Kong team will perform Jing, an experimental piece co-created by Chinese actress Yu Erge and HKDC dancer Yuan Shenglun. Through videography and movements, they incorporate elements of nature into experimental theatre. Jing won the outstanding small venue production at last year’s Hong Kong Dance Awards.
February 18-20, 2022. Auditorium, Kwai Tsing Theatre, Kwai Tsing
Nezha: A Banished Prince
Yang Yuntao puts a spin on Chinese myth The Creation of the God to create this original dance drama. Nezha is a rebellious child god who accidentally kills the son of the East Sea Dragon King. After the King demands retribution, Nezha sacrifices himself.
June 10-12, 2022. Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Tsim Sha Tsui.
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