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Online Reviews

dance journal/hk: From the Top

By: William Chan

From dance journal/hk 20-3


While the past 20 years has slipped by, dance journal/hk has become firmly rooted in Hong Kong. From its beginnings as an entirely black-and-white photocopied edition, to today as a full-color printed periodical with an online version and follow-up videos, the journal has undergone many changes. How has this specialized publication, which has gained industry-wide recognition locally, made it through the past two decades? What are its seldom heard stories? Answers to these questions begin with a look at the dance ecology of the 1990s.


The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) sent out its first dance graduates in 1988. To replace the Council for the Performing Arts, founded in the early 1980s, the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC) was established in 1995 as the statutory body to plan, promote, and support the development of the arts. More subsidies were available, directly stimulating the rapid development of local dance activities in the 1990s. At that time, many early graduates from the HKAPA organized dance companies one after another; along with the social ambience regarding the handover of Hong Kong in 1997, many thoughts on our identity and creations were sparked. However, most dance criticism in the mainstream press focused only on the productions of flagship art companies or performance tours of overseas dance companies to Hong Kong, neglecting the productions of small and medium size dance companies.


Willy Tsao, founder of City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC), self-financed and published a cultural and art magazine, Crossover Magazine, in the 1990s. Through this serious publication, he hoped to encourage more reports on arts and culture, as well as contemplation and discussion after each production. Nonetheless, the subvented organization at that time, which was the Council for the Performing Arts, did not attach great importance to his work, and made various requests impeding its development. For example, instead of attention to certain types of styles or performances, the Council demanded balanced reporting on different genres of the arts. In light of these conditions, Tsao, as one of the founding members of the Hong Kong Dance Alliance (HKDA), suggested creating a brand-new dance-oriented publication, dance journal/hk.


Tsao intended the publication to be professional. A large readership was not sought, as it was meant for industry practitioners with an emphasis on serious discussion and commentary. According to Tom Brown, another originator of dance journal/hk, in every major metropolis around the world where dance thrives, there is a publication devoted exclusively to dance. Therefore, he hoped for such a publication in Hong Kong to provide more room for commentary about dance and space to review the works of young independent choreographers, furthering the growth of creators and nurturing dance audiences.


There were a lot of considerations regarding the Chinese and English names of the journal. Tsao recalls that when he tried to name the journal, his main concern was to make the theme of dance stand out in a non-academic way. After discussion, in the end, a simple and low-profile name was preferred《舞蹈手札》to《非常舞蹈》as the Chinese title. As for the English version, Brown reckoned that the word journal had a bit more weight than magazine. Although journal shares the meaning of periodical, what it implies is in fact a less scholarly diary; moreover, it was decided to have the title all in lower case letters with a tag of “/hk”. This decision was partially inspired by fashion designers of that time, who similarly tagged the initials of their cities to their brand names.


Starting from the second year of publication, Cecil Sze Tak-on, was engaged in the design and layout process and later also assisted in editing and writing for the journal. He talked about the lack of specialized reviewers and full-time critics in spite of attention to commentaries in the performing arts industry at that time. Although funding allowed the periodical Xpressions to launch in 1998, its reviews couldn’t save it from termination as that funding came to an end.


Brown pointed out that during that period, articles published in the mass media were only a few hundred words in length due to limitations of space. Listing information about production staff and a brief summary alone took most of that space, leaving not much room for a detailed critique of the production. dance journal/hk has made the publication of longer and more in-depth articles possible and has become a contemporaneous record of dance development.


Thinking back to the commencement of the journal, Tsao remembers a plain edition with only a few copies and even an undetermined number of pages. He and Brown would write one to two features or reviews and asked active commentators for articles. Owning to limited resources, they couldn’t pay much in remuneration to the writers. It was hard to request a contribution of articles to the journal, and most of the content consisted of material reprinted from newspapers. Tsao says that there were art reviews in South China Morning Post, Ta Kung Pao, Ching Pao, and Sing Tao Daily, and they would reprint the published articles in dance journal/hk, as a form of news clipping service for HKDA’s members. On one hand, they could save on costs; on the other hand, it was more convenient for artists, art companies, and readers to look for different reviews of productions within just one publication.


Brown adds that the initial aim of the journal was to include reviews on all performances every month. It would be ideal to have feature articles and the latest news in each issue, as well as in-depth articles in every other edition. However, there were not many writers, so in the early days most of the content consisted of newspaper clippings. Sze says that he helped with the clippings at first as well but discontinued with it when the administrative work from securing the rights of reprinting articles increased as a result of the amendment of the copyright ordinance later.


At the beginning of dance journal/hk, Tsao was the voluntary editor-in-chief who made plans and wrote articles. According to Scarlet Wong, who participated in the layout and editorial process at the HKDA, Tsao originally wanted to have a dance-themed publication that could comprehensively record dance performances in Hong Kong. With limited resources, they had to do many things by themselves. In addition to typing, layout, and proofreading, for the first two issues Wong photocopied the manuscripts at Hong Kong Ballet herself, brought the A3-sized pages back to the HKAPA, folded them into 500 copies, and gave them to the Hong Kong Dance Company to mail and distribute – a prime example of domestic processing.


With the subsidies for numerous projects from the HKADC, HKDA was later able to apportion a sum to support the publication of dance journal/hk by hiring professionals to design the cover, type the manuscripts, and send the journal to printshop. Yet, Wong still took over the design and layout of the inside pages, as well as the later stage of publication on her own. She admits a scant knowledge in publishing, frankly saying that she simply used Word to design the layout initially; only after some time did she learn an editing software, Pagemaker, on her own, so as to address the her lack of knowledge. A pure desire to contribute to the journal sometimes overrode aesthetic consideration.


As Tsao had been busy giving lectures and advancing the development of modern dance in China, it became harder for him to keep up with local performances and dance development due to his frequent departures. Therefore, Brown, who was working for the HKAPA at that time, together with Chu Kit, formed an editorial board with Tsao to cope with the editing of the journal. Sze remembers the difficult days for every team member in the first year of publication. Because of an insufficient number of articles, sometimes the journal was issued every two months instead of the intended monthly edition. Moreover, HKDA had very limited financial assistance, and with everyone’s demanding schedules sometimes it seemed there was no one person in charge of the journal. During the most difficult times, Sze happened to be available, and consequently started to follow the layout and editing work.


Sze also recollects that when funds for Multi-Projects Grant were used up, HKDA made another application in order to sustain dance journal/hk; however, the amount it received was reduced by half. As a result, there were only six issues a year, turning the journal into a bimonthly publication. There was a time, at one point in the journal’s history that because of an administrative error in completing the audited report for the HKADC on time, it suspended publication because funding was withheld. That was why there were only four editions of the journal in 2002 (with the fourth edition published on a self-financed basis). The journal resumed publication in early 2003 and continues to be published to this day.



All publication of dance journal/hk since 1999 can now be accessed on www.dancejournalhk.com/past-issues


Special thanks to the following donors in supporting 20th Anniversary Feature for dance journal/hk:

Pearl Chan

Stella Lau

Shirley Loong

Natasha Rogai

Cecil Sze

Paul Tam

Septime Webre

Kevin Wong

Sylvia Wu

















《信報》:專業看法各有不同 藝發局選情激烈

文:《信報》卡夫卡 kafka@hkej.com
































文:取自【藝術 3+1】鍾小梅、盧偉力、梅卓燕及吳美筠聯手出選藝發局


曹誠淵:「梅卓燕是立足香港、面向國際的舞蹈家,在藝術成就與視野上都獨當一面。而 鍾小梅、盧偉力及吳美筠 都是資深做實事的藝術工作者。藝術發展局需要這班有承擔有實力的委員,才能真正發揮其倡導香港藝術文化的功能。」







亞洲舞子聚首香江,舞壇競舞各展雄姿—— 評東邊舞蹈團《亞洲當代舞林匯演之AM篇》

文:Jonathan Ho


東邊現代舞蹈團每年舉辦的《亞洲當代舞林匯演之AM篇》轉眼已踏入第四屆,與前兩屆相比,此舞蹈匯演的確漸趨成熟、漸見架構,年青舞者的舞蹈造詣亦有一定水準。觀乎現在香港演藝圈充斥著所謂「大團」或政府康文組織才可舉辦「藝術節」的奇怪文化生態,相對而言,東邊此舉確是一個甚具創意的計劃,更可說是很有膽色的舉措!東邊舞蹈團藝術總監余仁華視野之前瞻,由此可見一斑。事實上,只要放眼歐美國家的演藝生態:Off Broadway,Fringe Theatre等皆是各地開花,處處芬芳,與主流藝團互相競豔。


其實所謂「AM篇」是指「Asian-Male」——亞洲男舞者及全男舞者演出。平情而論,男舞者在舞蹈平台上的可塑性一向很高,他們往往能夠在剛陽氣度間流露柔情的性格;在矯健的身段中滲透著婉約的詩情!而男舞者雕塑般的身軀,在發放無限激情之餘亦會散發出煦暖的親和力! 今屆六位分別來自越南、韓國、台灣、北京與本地的年青男舞者皆各具性格,今夕雲集香江舞壇一展舞藝,有如英雄赴會,各展雄姿!


越南舞者Nguyen Ngoc Anh的 Motherland,以森林中的大樹比喻為自己的國家,身穿白色襯衣的Nguyen 在台中央的樹下悠然舒泰地遊走著,煦暖的陽光從樹林上映照下來,配合著越南詩歌的朗朗誦讀聲,有若仁者的叮嚀,又似天使的呼喚,最後Nguyen在地上拾起一片綠葉,接回樹上,面帶笑容地步回後台。Nguyen的 Motherland 可說是當晚較為溫暖的作品,主題亦較正面,Nguyen的作品令筆者思考到:幼樹只會在充足的養分下才能樹木成蔭;人們身處在空氣清新的林蔭下才會心曠神怡,由此可見筆者的期盼:自由的創作風氣可以不分國界,到處一樣,花開遍地,綠樹成林。


兩位來自韓國的舞者,全爀振與李廷仁的作品皆充滿東方的哲思。先言全爀振的Small Convenience,其全套作品的燈光就只有台中央吊下來的一盞燈,燈由貼著地板開始漸漸升起,令人聯想起日出,身穿黑色舞衣的全就在這盞燈的燈光內外下舞動著。表面看來全的舞姿表現得很「不優美」,在韋達利卡農曲動人的旋律下更顯得「不協調」!然而全爀振如此的拼貼卻出現攝人的電影效果,不禁令人慨嘆,人生的種種無奈與悲情愁緒,古今皆是一樣,只是表達的方法不同而已:韋的歌曲籍提琴低訴;全則靠舞姿演繹出來。原來詩人思緒、舞者心聲,可以相隔百載而神交。


同樣,李廷仁在 Little Society的舞律皆受台上不同大小的圓形燈區所「規範」。李的舞步只能「受制」於一圈又一圈的燈區之下;圈子愈大,他的舞姿便如池魚泳㵎般可以悠然自得;圈子愈小,他的舞步卻如龍游淺灘,變得無奈。我們每天生活在各個大大小小的生活圈子內,其中能遊走得泰然自若的又有多少!? 全和李的舞蹈身段甚佳,加上兩人漸建風格的編舞技巧,相信日後在現代舞壇可更放異彩!

而台北張堅豪與香港岑智頣的作品,則相對較為新嫩,然亦不失年輕伙子的憤世激情。張的 Myself 與岑的 Freak 皆藉舞台的光影與自編的舞蹈表達對身處社會的不滿;看似「不協調」的動作、處處制肘著舞步的燈區與台上放著的空椅子,皆有如樂與怒坦率的歌詞般,唱盡慘綠少年的悲歌!他們二人年紀尚輕,作品或見粗糙,卻可反映出少年人的率真性情!他倆只要日後多作觀摩鑽研,累積編舞與人生經驗,他日舞壇必可更見成績!


北京舞者劉斌的 13:03:05.03 相信是當晚最具理性邏輯思維的一套作品。那計時器冷漠地在看似是化驗室的舞台上倒數著,劉在台上有規律地不停背向觀眾舞動著,然後在計時器倒數到一個單元數字時,他的舞衣上不斷有金色的小豆從身上掉下來,金豆的掉下卻沒終止劉的舞動!直至劉身上的金豆全都掉落,劉才停下舞步面向觀眾,看似突然從夢遊中甦醒了一樣!最後,後台兩側瀉出滿地金豆才終止全舞。此舞在理性邏輯間反映出人生與時間的哲理,值得深思。



Cultural Borders: Lost in Translation, Review of Dance Solo (part of Namasya)

By foraskywalk


A child of East and West, India-born, Paris-bred Shantala Shivalingappa performed Solo, a15- minute piece co-choreographed with Pina Bausch. While some dancers enjoy solitude, this particular night of July 1, 2012 saw Shivalingappa rather lonely at the Joyce Theater, New York, distant from both her Eastern and Western audiences.


Trained in traditional Indian Kuchipudi, Shivalingappa describes her desire to explore contemporary dance as “equally compelling”. Sadly her show turned out to be a stereotypical culture shock where an excellent Asian dancer falls short at Western dance because she is missing the almost instinctive judgment accumulated from a lifetime of exposure and comparisons. Granted, Shivalingappa is one of the few ‘mixed kids’ who do not have such an ‘excuse,’ but it only shows how important it is.


Dancing with Bausch, Shivalingappa learned to “feel and think about movement in a different way, from its conception to its execution: spontaneity, freedom and rigor, fluidity.” Bausch was Shivalingappa’s first encounter with a ‘different’ way of dancing - indeed so different that it proved too difficult. The freedom and fluidity preached by the German choreographer remained foreign to the Indian dancer.


Beneath a single overhead light, Shivalingappa emerged from the wings in Bausch‘s signature floor-caressing black silk dress. Starting with a wide squat and rippling arms, she went on to portray a variety of roles: a sentimental teenager weaving while thinking of her lover, a peacock looking around with sharp, expressive eyes, an exotic Hindu goddess speaking with eloquent fingers. None of these, however, exhibited the same level of energy exploding from the helpless falls and doomed embraces that proclaim, unmistakably, Bausch. The choreographer is a master of images of pain and imprisonment where dancers lash their bodies angrily against their lovers as if they have to hurt in order to feel. But Shivalingappa interpreting these images was energy-less, passion-less. If she had loved, her love was neither poignant nor splendid. Her low energy left plenty of ‘empty space’ on stage that became dead air just the way a dull background in a painting is little more than a blank canvas.


The Asian aesthetics of subtlety may be to blame. Unlike Western culture where freedom and openness thrive, Asians tend to subdue their emotions. Take sentiments such as “I love you” for example - a universal expression found in the arts - while Western ballet dancers mime the message by pointing at each other followed by crossing their hands over their hearts, Asians simply lower their head, cover their mouth with hands, and flash a loving glance; shyness is a virtue in women. So it’s only natural that Shivalingappa - like her veiled sisters - finds it hard to unchain the sassy Bausch girl within.


Inarticulate and unexpressive, her movements also lacked coherence and smoothness. They appeared stiff, almost contorting the body mechanically from one pose to another. The ‘machine’ was poorly lubricated just as the steps were not smoothly transitioned. When she shifted directions, the momentum crashed; when she gestured, it froze in midair while the music continued. As a member of the audience, I felt like choking as her body snagged on awkward transitions or got caught in clumsy shapes, her impetus dragged or became hyperactive.


Something was wrong with her phrasing. A phrase links up separate moves so that they form a logical, pleasing or expressive shape. A great dancer can spin steps into long, flowing, seamless skeins of dance where each action emerges as a natural and inevitable consequence of the previous. Such fluency would have flattered Shivalingappa immensely - and made Bausch smile.


Phrasing is intimately connected to the way dancers listen to music. Musicality determines a dancer’s basic ability for keeping time. Solo is set to a Bossa Nova-like ballad titled Paris. Romantic and abstract, the rhythm proved too ‘foreign’ for Shivalingappa who actually grew up in Paris, oddly enough. An indulgent face with closed eyes was betrayed by a nervous mind counting every beat. Is it because she, primarily trained in Kuchipudi, is more used to classical Indian music? In fact, most of her shows are accompanied by live bands that must easily accommodate her steps or provide more solid cues.  This is a major let down, for a dancer with superb musicality should be able to bring the tunes to life as if they were singing through her veins and reaching out to the audience through her smiles, glances, and fingertips. Paradoxically her steps should also move ‘inside’ the music, pushing and pulling it into the shapes of the dance. But Shivalingappa to whom Paris sounded so ‘foreign’, was enable to evoke such beautiful illusions.


Poor musicality is one sin; bodily awareness is another that contributed to her lack of flowing grace; to be precise, her weak consciousness of the body as a whole. This may again be the result of Asian aesthetics.


First, her background in Kuchipudi. Unlike ballet’s high jumps and contemporary dance’s wild swings, Kuchipudi dance rarely strikes out into space. Movements are activated in the air immediately surrounding the body; the interest is focused on details in gestures, glances, and feet. These are miniature dances that would be lost if the body had to travel huge distances, which is usually the case in Bausch’s works. Shivalingappa, while excelling in Kuchipudi, turned out to be an outcast in the modern, Western choreographyof Solo. She struggles with the contrast between the taut and relaxed, active and passive, acceleration and delay.


Apart from Kuchipudi, many other Asian dances also focus on details performed by individual body parts. Fawn Thai for instance, concentrates the audience’s gaze on 6-inch brass fingernails and palms holding lit candles. The rest of the body either moves monotonously or remains still, i.e. kneeling. Likewise, Japanese Butoh specifically confines movements in the space of four tatami (the average Japanese home space). Its pursuit of convulsive beauty clearly contradicts with ‘flowing grace’.


Generally, dancers performing traditional Asian dances differ from those doing Russian, American, and European work in that their movements are smaller; they dance ‘within’ themselves rather than striking out; they are brilliant rather than bold. The devil is in the details. This stems from the cultural ideal of ‘femininity’ for women: reserved, timid, obedient. These qualities are both inherited and internalized in the black hair, brown eyes, and petite bodies. On the contrary, Western choreographers see the body as a whole, exemplified by such principles as ‘fall and recovery’ in Doris Humphrey’s work and ‘contract and release’ in Martha Graham’s work.


Indian and Parisian in one, Shivalingappa purports to blend her nature with nurture, and dazzle us with a cross-cultural extravaganza. But the “spontaneity, freedom, rigor, and fluidity” she learned from Bausch, where have they gone?


In the age of globalization, it is argued that only the national can go global. Shivalingappa is motivated by – and respected for, her strong desire to bring Kuchipudi to Western audiences.  However, when it comes to contemporary dance, the cultivation of “kinesthetic sixth sense” owes much to cultural immersion. Shivalingappa must have had little, despite her residency in Paris, given her Kuchipudi training and a mother (dancer Savitry Nair) who, after rehearsals, goes to temples instead of bars.


Of course, it’s difficult for artists of one genre to develop an equally sophisticated taste in another. And cultural roots are usually deeper than we’re aware. Shivalingappa is one of the few young dancers ambitious enough to attempt at transcending borders. This alone is worth a “Bravo!” Indeed, more should muster up their courage to cross cultural barriers. By the same token, audiences can better appreciate exotic arts with an open mind and pristine eyes. Hands joined, hearts connected, boundaries blurred, soon enough, we will no longer be lost in translation.





Mackrell, Judith. Reading Dance. London: Michael Joseph. (1997).


Namasya Press Kit. http://www.perdiem.fr/IMG/pdf/Namasya_Press_Kit.pdf. (Accessed 10/09/2012).


文:Zachary SIN






開首由一位青春少艾只穿內衣在淋浴,一次又一次洗潔自己的嬌軀,彷彿要洗滌自己的身心,令作品在命題和內容的延伸變得更具體化,配合她彷如音樂/舞蹈般一樣有節奏和激情的動作,令觀眾帶著輕鬆而專注的態度欣賞美感。編舞者善於掌握重點作內容表達,在〈Here and There〉的一幕中,六人輕鬆愉快合照後,各人各自離開,但情感上卻明顯有濃淡之別,給人一個思考課題:「人與人之間的愛,究竟是被地域空間所限制,或是被自身的情感所困?」又如〈Home Sweet Home〉的片段,在簡潔的舞台上,舞者多番以手腳作伸展舞姿和轉圈,令觀眾更了解空間感對每個人的重要。事實上,對一個家而言,空間絕對是一個很重要的因素,。編舞者在有限的資源和時間下,多番令大家有一個貼近生活的思考機會。







文︰Zachary SIN
























欣賞過香港藝術節中外國舞團和藝術家的演出後,注意力又回到本地創作。純粹因為支持朋友和喜歡現代舞,四月份欣賞了幾個本地現代舞作品,特別想討論是在動藝排練室演出的兩個作品,分別是李家祺和梁芷茵 共編的《 全程40分後300秒》和 岑智頤 的 Blind。動藝的排練室以白色為主,所以稱為「白盒劇場」,排練室地方不太,樓層也不高,要預留觀眾席再加上側幕等佈置後,餘下的表演區實在有限,排練室一邊是鏡子,另外一邊是玻璃門,加上門簾也有漏光的情況,作為演出場地不算理想。不過資源一向都是有限的,只要抱著以有限創造無限的心去創作,環境限制只要巧妙的利用可以為作品加添趣味和可觀性 。


作品名稱《全程40分後300秒》,略為計算即是 45 分鍾,似是跟時間有關的。而演出一開始舞者就在演出區放了一個時計來倒數。演出區跟觀眾席有透明膠紙相隔,觀眾有被困的感覺,並不太舒服。開始時 兩位舞者在場區縱橫的走動,他們不時相遇又分開,直覺是分針和時針的走動。原來作品是有關人與人聚和散的關係。只有45分鐘的作品有不少段落,更用上不少道具相互穿插,有不少有趣點子,可惜是這些點子沒有利用發展。建構了的沒有累積 和承托,好像作品中用上的聲音,包括呼吸聲,不同節奏的掌聲,電腦和手提電話聲,編舞在透明膠紙上撫摸時的「噪音」,甚至於結束時沙粒從天花瀉下來的聲音( 可惜給音樂蓋過了),只是作為段落起點和結束有點浪費。


對於用上多樣元素,編舞回應是跟他思考「量」的問題有關,然而這個「量」的呈現分散了專注力使作品感覺有點鬆散。較為有印象和完整是借用圓形小桌發展的段落,分別用上一個小和一個大的圓形桌面發展舞蹈,並將圓形桌面分成小份和把它重組。編舞同時提到創作概念是源於現代人的「聚」只有軀體的靠近,但實質大家都各行其是的現象,是一個相當貼身的社會狀況,暫且作品中看到的只是兩個人的關係,跟想要表達有一段距離。 說是暫且因為作品是有第二部份; 也許真的要留待下回分解。




那個盒子是主要道具,換上不同處理,輾轉有著不同的意思,它是編舞的心結,打不開放不下,並一直存在他們關係之間。編舞用上盒子發展的幾組舞段都見心思 。

















香港文化界爭取多年成立文化局、在今天而終於有可能成為事實的當兒,我們的新特首及他的團隊,對文化的論述離不開「文化產業」、「資源分配」,而博大的文化活動是可以由一司長「統領」的。以金錢資本在媒體傳播這種論述,為的是市民認知中的文化定義權;藝術行政人員面對洪流,隱然感到布萊希特筆下的finsteren Zeiten(黑暗的時代)正在的門外張看,是否仍然願意像自由落體般隨外力下墬,不作任何選擇地選擇。認真思考如何自處,是對自身也是對時代的交待。