City Contemporary Dance Company
It’s My Turn: Timeline, A Hollowed Mind, The Voice Inside, Re/dis-connect
Hong Kong, Cultural Centre Studio Theatre
27 September 2013
A version of this review previously appeared in the South China Morning Post
It’s My Turn is the 2013 edition of City Contemporary Dance Company’s annual showcase for new choreography by its dancers, three of whom – Bruce Wong, Lai Tak-wai and Lam Po – were joined by independent choreographer Rebecca Wong. Although this wasn’t a vintage year, all four pieces offered something to enjoy. Although there was no set theme it was noticeable that each work revolved around the creative use of props, from cardboard boxes to chairs to a real chicken wing cooked on stage – a first for this reviewer.
The most powerful example was Lai’s Timeline, where the focus is a huge square beam of wood some four metres long. On an otherwise bare stage, this becomes in turn barrier, burden, hazard or the hand of a gigantic clock as five dancers led by Dominic Wong, who manipulates the beam in various imaginative ways, move now fast, now slowly as Lai seeks to explore the concept of time. In one riveting segment Wong (who never ceases to astound) balances the beam across his shoulders (look, no hands!) and begins to spin faster and faster – a heart-in-the-mouth feat brought off by the dancer’s strength, sense of balance and sheer willpower. In a stunning final image the beam is suspended above the stage in a cone of light like an enormous metronome. Time is our master, the choreographer seems to say.
Rebecca Wong’s A Hollowed Mind makes a promising start with inventive, balletic duets juxtaposed with neatly-imagined group configurations. Unfortunately the piece loses its way halfway through when the focus shifts from dance to the dancers first demolishing then re-building a wall of empty cardboard boxes. Whatever the intended symbolism might have been, the end result was indeed hollow – a pity as this is clearly a choreographer who understands how to make bodies move in relation to each other.
Lam Po’s The Voice Inside deploys eight dancers and eight chairs to create striking stage patterns while the choreographer looks down on them from high above (a good use of the Studio Theatre’s layout). I can’t help feeling that dancing with, on and around chairs is an overly well-worn theme among CCDC choreographers – it is one of Helen Lai’s signature devices and has also featured in Noel Pong’s work. Nevertheless, Lam makes good use of both the chairs and the dancers and his piece has a strong sense of theatre. An arresting performance by Peggy Lam combined emotional intensity with strange, almost grotesque movements.
And now for something completely different, as they used to say on Monty Python, when contemporary dance meets cooking show in Bruce Wong’s Re/dis-connect. At a cooking station at the front of the stage equipped with wok and electric mini-oven, dancers take turns in preparing and cooking a stuffed chicken wing while their colleagues perform to the strains of Swan Lake and The Dying Swan, complete with wing-like arm movements and a sly wink at classical ballet. Thoroughly entertaining and endearingly wacky, if a little hard on audience members who hadn’t had their dinner yet (the chicken looked and smelt delicious) it featured some nicely-choreographed group work. Lee Ka-ki was particularly funny as a bewildered participant.
CCDC’s own feathers are currently looking a little ruffled. Several outstanding senior artists have left over the past couple of years (most going overseas), while some promising new ones have joined only to leave within a short time. Four out of a total 14 dancers only joined this year, all young, so the overall level of experience is lower. As a result the company, for so long an exceptionally cohesive ensemble with a strong group identity, now needs to re-invent itself.