FIRST Creation Platform
Begin Again with FIRST Challenge
The inaugural edition of the FIRST Creation Platform, presented at Freespace Dance 2023, invited six local female choreographers to embark on researching a new topic of their own interest. The project is about the process and not the end product. It is a sign of trust towards the dance creators by giving them a chance to reflect and create.
Although performance venues have not closed their doors completely during the pandemic in the past three years, the impact sporadic and uncertain opportunities had on creators was still significant in one way or another. As the six choreographers shared in the following interviews, when it comes to talking about their artistic development, they always return to 2019, just as my and the audience’s memory of their work.
When I watched The Neighbour by Blue Ka-wing in 2015, modest elements such as bodies, lights and music cohered into a dance work about an individual’s experience of life. Then there was Time Lag, which began from the idea of being late to explore the rhythm of movements. Blue’s creative process starts from her first-hand experience of life and then moves on to interrogating the relationship between the body and the mind, as seen in The Invisible S, which was part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, and her recent short dance film. She is continuously searching for new directions, closely examining her subjects of interest and trying her best to experiment.
Among her many creative directions, Blue Ka-wing has kept some and let go of others. For instance, through West Kowloon’s Creative Meeting Point (CMP) in 2019, she explored the relationship between the body’s movement and the mind alongside local artists in Melbourne. Having felt that she had experimented with many different methods, she decided to put this direction to rest until further ideas arise. Whereas, her practice of taking daily life experience as points of creative departure has continued. The restaging of The Neighbour in 2020 was larger in scale and made use of more types of media. Her recent short dance film Basketball Player Dances was also inspired from life.
Blue Ka-wing started making short dance video works due to the pandemic and developed a newfound interest in this medium. But she intends to continue creating live performances – although making dance video works can help her process different desires, live performances also present good challenges and training that teach her to let go and become more adaptable. Now, she hopes to develop both directions in parallel.
Since Wu, the work of Alice Ma has always revealed dark undertones beneath a veneer of comical parody, such as the darkness underneath the bright appearance of Wu and the overt manipulation in Over-Master. Although her works were not created from a female perspective, they are able to call attention to female subjectivity. The interrogation in Dingdingdingding and the silent mock oration in I Don’t Mean It reflect certain states in contemporary society. Besides her physical movements, Alice also puts thought into the sound, props and set design in her performances. She makes good use of sound design to highlight the theme of the dance, and the set design and props neatly present each piece’s key concepts.
However simple a set design may be, it still takes preparation. Alice mentioned that her use of augmented reality (AR) this time was in part due to touring considerations, but also because the application of technology is an inevitable trend, and the pandemic has only sped up everyone’s incorporation of it. She clearly knows that it is not a change in creative direction, but a way to learn more about AR so that she can utilise it as a tool to enhance her creative expression, just as stage, lights and sound effects. Regarding her takeaway from CMP, although she did not see spectacular performances during her overseas exchange, she discovered that all the works had a lot of individuality, which is uncommon in Hong Kong. It is very easy to try different things in Hong Kong, but this also makes it easy for one to lose direction and character. This is why she wants to focus on developing in one direction.
KT Yau’s mentors have pointed out how each of her works is distinctively different, making it difficult for her to explain her individual characteristics and style when pitching. Indeed, KT’s works are eclectic. The first performance of hers that I watched was a self-choreographed solo work, Remain Invisible, which objectifies the body and plays with the audience’s expectations. The ensemble works she later choreographed, including Unmixed, I.I.I and Confine, make use of the classroom, the home, prison cell and product launch as the setting, and her latest production Six Mouths imagines six different worlds presented as individual compartments. Every work is unique, but at close inspection, there is a consistent thread of exploring and reimagining the body.
KT practised yoga more frequently during the pandemic, which made her pay more attention to muscle micromovements and her own body when dancing. From there, she started to reflect on the traces of time on the body of a thirty-something, and how to record such state, and dance is no longer her main motivation for exploring the body. Collaborations with creative practitioners from different disciplines in recent years have expanded her perspective on performance. West Kowloon’s CMP gave her the opportunity to see the creative process of overseas artists and many other performances and exhibitions unrelated to dance. These cultural exchanges helped her to slowly develop the direction of her practice, conceptualise Six Mouths and contemplate how to move forward with her other creative works.
Whether solo, duet or ensemble dance, Justyne Li’s works reflect her persistence in exploring movement. Her fast and varied movements that precisely convey narratives and emotions are especially memorable. Justyne was originally trained in ballet, so her early works, such as Galatea X co-choreographed with Wong Tan-ki, are filled with the movement vocabulary of ballet. She later incorporated more movements of different contemporary dance styles into her works. Although the spectrum of movements in her solo The Shift and ensemble works such as Ode to Joy and Solo Together have clearly widened, what remains is her focus on meticulous movements.
In the past few years, much has happened in Hong Kong and around the world. Works such as The Shift, Ode to Joy and Solo Together seem to be responding to our contemporary times to different extents. Justyne points out that these global changes have not only affected her, but all artists and the state of the world at large. Regarding the influence that a place and environment can have on a person, she recalls her exchange experience in Finland as part of the CMP programme in 2019. Although she had lived in Europe for several years before and experienced its winters, the severe Finnish winter left deep impression on her. In such an environment, she thought about the inseparable relationship between nature and human beings, and the environment is more significant than individuals. The short dance film Come Rain or Shine was born from this – these risks and experiences all nourish her work and inspire her to keep creating.
Wong Pik-kei (Rebecca)
There are not many choreographers in Hong Kong exploring the female body, sexuality and desire, and even fewer who unabashedly focuses on choreography excavating these themes like Wong Pik-kei. Since her early work 19841012, she has questioned the relationship between the female body and its autonomy. Learning Butoh at later stage has deepened the motivation and stylistic choices behind her movements and narratives. Bird-Watching and Under ∞ Line ask the audience to confront nude bodies, challenging their conventional reception and imagination of the body and the nude. Her creations have paved a new direction for the art of dance in Hong Kong.
The search for the body’s autonomy and respect for an individual’s freedom of choice are what motivate Rebecca’s works, and they are also her takeaway from CMP. She found that there are also people against the nude in seemingly liberal Europe, which made her think about how individuals are entitled to their own opinions and have the right to choose. Even though Rebecca has continued her creative practice in the past few years, she candidly admits that she was in a bit of a slump and no longer knew why she should continue to create; there was no method or way to break through. But through participating in FIRST this time, she feels ready to search for a way out, hoping to re-establish her relationship with the audience, try to interact with them and continue to provoke them to think about respecting different choices.
I became acquainted with Ivy Tsui since from her first full-length piece Dehydrated Flower, and later watched her solo dance works Frangipani and Morning Glory, as well as the experimental piece dance Water Lilies. I remember her dedication to bodily movements, exploration of improvisation and attention to sound effects. It is only through our conversation this time that I learnt that her reason behind using sound as a key element is of consideration for the environment – she finds it difficult to throw away thoughtfully designed props after just a few days of performance. That was why she turned to focus on the adaptable element of sound, which is transformative, ambient and reusable. CMP influenced her thoughts on the body in her creative practice, which is coincidentally related to the theme of “reusability”. As she could only bring limited luggage to the overseas exchange, she had to plan carefully what to pack in advance. Isn’t her own body both a daily necessity and a tool to facilitate the exchange?
Ivy enjoys the sensational and sensorial memory that dance gives her body, and her greatest satisfaction from performance is to share these memories, such as directly interacting with the audience as a cultural ambassador or through site-specific works such as QuanQuan. But after 2019, she lost confidence in her body and was no longer sure what else it could express. This uncertainty led her to repeatedly reflect on her creative direction and artistic practice. Following such rumination, she decided to pursue further studies to inspect this state and process the relationship between her individuality, body and dance, as well as to reflect and shape her future with dance through practice. She started from developing dance vocabulary, shaping the physicality and texture of the body, creating atmosphere, exploring the possibilities of audience interaction and the sharing of dance in non-theatre spaces. Through creating more works and experimenting with different formats, Ivy continues to articulate, search for and expand the definition of dance.
The uncertainties and near standstill of the local creative environment in the past three years are finally coming to an end. Perhaps the inaugural edition of FIRST Creation Platform would provide a sneak peek of the future creative directions of these six choreographers.
Text: Daisy Chu
English Translation: Narratives Studio
This work takes inspiration from Basketball Player Dances, a dance film I directed during the pandemic. At that time, I found that a basketball player’s shifting of centre of gravity, body movements and on-site reactions are comparable to improvisation in dance. Watching how basketball players move their bodies is like watching a dance. In this video work, I did not end up being the protagonist but took on different roles for the first time, including directing, editing, colour correction and some of the shooting. In particular, the editing process brought me satisfaction outside of theatre work creation – it felt like another way of choreographing. After the pandemic eased, Basketball Player Dances led to collaborations with commercial brands, transforming from a video work to a live dance performance, which allowed the concept to have a life beyond the screen.
This time, I have decided to take the concept one step further and go from playing basketball to juggling balls. I invited juggling performer Patrick Pun to explore together how dancers can adjust their bodies and create something out of nothing based on pure imagination, without changing any body movements and using any props. How would the viewers come to see these bodies? I hope that this approach can lead to discovering various ways that stimulate bodily movement.
- Concept: Blue Ka-wing
- Juggling Performer: Patrick Pun
Production Team of Basketball Player Dances
- Director: Blue Ka-wing
- Dancer: Wilfred Wong
- Cameraman: Hui Hong Nin Blue Ka Wing
- Editor: Blue Ka Wing
- Composer: Lego Shum
This project is supported by Hong Kong Arts Development Council “Arts Go Digital Platform Scheme”.
About Blue Ka-wing
Independent Hong Kong choreographer and dancer Blue Ka-wing graduated from The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in 2010 with a BA in contemporary dance and choreography. Her work Time Lag (2016, Hong Kong Arts Festival) was nominated for Outstanding Choreography at the Hong Kong Dance Awards and later staged in Japan and Korea. Experimental Relationships (2019, Hong Kong Arts Festival) was selected for the Yokohama Dance Collection 2020 and staged in Yokohama and Kyoto. Her dance film God Limps and 9 were recently screened at several international festivals, including ScreenDance Festival in Sweden. In 2021, Mountains, Seas, Panorama was selected for the Cannes Festival Court Métrage – Short Film Corner catalogue.
I plan to explore further into the application of experimental augmented reality (AR) technology in dance creation. I did a similar study last year at a dance festival of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Back then, I only focused on using AR technology to assist rehearsals and guide dancers to generate movements. After that, I have been thinking about the experience: as there are many things that need to be handled when touring a performance, if I only need to bring a QR code and the audience could see the scenery and props virtually during a performance, everything will be much more convenient. Recently, I met some friends who are tech professionals and willing to experiment with me. Coincidentally, West Kowloon’s Freespace also provides this opportunity, so we can implement and explore the value and possibility of combining AR and live performances.
- Choreography and Performance : Alice Ma
- Extended Reality (XR) Concept and Development: Anita Lam Yoki Yao Andy Stokes @The Collective
- The artist wishes to thank the following individuals for their help and support: Rex Cheng Leung Po Wing
About Alice Ma
Photo: Lee Wai-leung
Alice Ma graduated from The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in Contemporary Dance and Choreography. She received the Hong Kong Dance Awards Tom Brown Emerging Choreographer Award (2020) and The Hong Kong Arts Development Award for Young Artist (2021). Ma has collaborated with various arts organisations including Hong Kong Arts Festival, New Vision Arts Festival and West Kowloon Cultural District. Recent works include Wu and Over-master (Hong Kong Arts Festival Hong Kong Jockey Club Contemporary Dance Series). Wu was selected for the 2019 New Dance for Asia International Festival, Seoul. In 2020, Over-master was staged in Japan and Singapore, and nominated for Outstanding Choreography at the Hong Kong Dance Awards.
I realised that it was no longer dance movements that continued to drive my creative practice, but my interest in the many unknowns between my body and everyday life. I stepped into my thirties during the pandemic, and began to question my body as a dancer. This led me to communicate with my muscles and body contours through daily workouts, observing them with more clarity and continuing to connect with my body. I started to be more aware of the importance the passage of time has on the body, and hoped to record these bodily traces.
This time I hope to find three creative materials – all starting from drawings of my nude body – using direct observations of my bodily appearance and postures as the creative basis while reducing the element of dance movement to a minimum. The three drawings will be done by three people whom I have different relationships with in my life. The significance is not on the result or the finished work, but the process of careful observation and documentation. During the drawing process, they tell their observations from an outsider's perspective of how my body in its state at the time, exploring the relationship between physical body and personal life.
- Concept and Performance: KT Yau
- Dramaturgy and Research collaboration: Dong Yan
- The artist wishes to thank the following individuals for their help and support: Louise Lee Priscilla Wong Lawmanray
About KT Yau
Photo: Hung Keung
Hong Kong-born dance artist KT Yau has performed with a number of renowned companies and artists and toured her work internationally in Europe and Asia. In 2018, Yau received the Award for Young Artist at the Hong Kong Arts Development Awards and the Emerging Choreographer Award at the Hong Kong Dance Awards. She has received an Outstanding Small Venue Production Award at the Hong Kong Dance Awards for her works Unmixed (2018, New Force in Motion series, Leisure and Cultural Services Department) and Confine (2019, Tai Kwun), both of which were also nominated for Outstanding Choreography.
I have long wanted to deconstruct and reconstruct a well-known classic ballet title, and now I am finally ready to do so. Since last year, I have been wanting to reconstruct and transform Swan Lake into something else.
FIRST offers an opportunity for us to experiment with some preliminary ideas – these are not necessarily finished products, but a presentation. Therefore, this is a gathering of materials for the setting of future creative work, be it for the plot or character development. I want to see what would come out of filtering the materials through my lens of observation and understanding. Two key protagonists in Swan Lake are the black swan and the white swan. In most performances, the two characters are almost always played by the same dancer – I am especially drawn by this opposing duality within the same person. The respective relationship of the black and white swans with the male protagonist is what I also want to deconstruct this time.
About Justyne Li
Photo: Wong Tan-ki
Li’s work has been recognised at local and international competitions, including Jerusalem International Choreography Competition (Division), InShadow Festival, Portugal and Light Move Festival, Ireland (Come Rain or Shine), and the Hong Kong Dance Awards (Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer, Galatea X; Outstanding Achievement in Independent Dance, Galatea & Pygmalion).
In the past three years, I have been thinking about what theatre means to me. What is the value and status of the theatre space in Hong Kong? I also thought about how, in the past, having the audience watch performances seems to be a unidirectional and manipulative format that has no genuine exchange. Therefore, I would like to try changing the relationship with the audience, so we can jointly create a space for imagination and a more personal, intimate experience.
I do not think of this as a creative work, because that signifies something bigger for me. I look forward to taking this opportunity to share and gather comments that will help me contemplate further and look for a fresh start.
- Concept and Performance: Wong Pik-kei
- Sound Design: Jasper Fung
- The artist wishes to thank the following individuals for their help and support: Orlean Lai Vee Leong
About Wong Pik-kei
A graduate of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Wong Pik-kei is a choreographer and dancer known for her provocative works that challenge sex and gender stereotypes from a distinct female perspective. She was awarded a scholarship by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council to attend the Atlas choreography workshops at the 2017 ImPulsTanz Vienna International Dance Festival, and was selected by the West Kowloon Cultural District to participate in its residency exchange programme Creative Meeting Point: Hong Kong x Barcelona in 2018. Her most notable projects include When Time Limps, Woman.Body, 19841012, Nook, Bird-Watching and Under ∞ Line.
Space Between Screens is the working title of this project. I want to observe and contemplate the relationship between my dance practice and moving image. By experimenting with video editing – a creative practice less familiar to me – I want to reflect on the nature of dance and film, find the expanding possibilities of dance and develop my own artistic language.
This sharing will be divided into two parts. The first part is a verbal introduction of my dance practice and its extended details. The second part is a screening of the work.
- Concept, Performance, Editing and Sound Design: Ivy Tsui
- The artist wishes to thank the following individuals for their help and support: Multipilé Dans Festival Minimalen Short Film Festival Fest en Fest Jumping Frames – Hong Kong International Movement-image Festival Becky Edmunds Jane Chan Ching Chu Liesel Zink Hong Kong Arts Festival Cattle Deport Artists Village Tin Project
About Ivy Tsui
Photo: Maximillian Cheng
Born and raised in Hong Kong, dance artist Ivy Tsui was recognised with the Award for Young Artist (Dance) at the 2015 Hong Kong Arts Development Awards. Since 2020, Tsui has been the writer for the column Choreo-Word-Graphy in dance journal/hk. She is currently a Master’s student at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London.