PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 December, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 December, 1998, 12:00am

Somewhere In The Past 80 Years By The Railway, City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC) Continues Dec 19-20 Railway Museum, Tai Po Market. Free Once upon a time, when the Kowloon Canton Railway track was freshly laid, and the New Territories were far newer than they are today, a woman saw her lover leave on the train, never to return.

And two children, arriving from China, lost their mother in the melee of refugees. And someone, a young girl perhaps, died on the tracks . . .

In this performance choreographer Pun Siu-fai has taken the railway and given it a breath of life.

By considering how railways separate people and bring them together, Pun has created Hong Kong's first 'environmental dance piece', using a historical site - or route - as his stage.

This was less a dance show than an opportunity to wander through the museum and watch different things happen in different places.

Had I walked in - as many did - without preconceptions of what it was about, or even that it was a show, I would have been hard-pressed to follow the narrative.

But it did not matter if we did not know who the characters were, to whom they said goodbye, or why they were pouring tea to accordion music in front of the old station. Instead, the real achievement of this event was the way it awoke the ghosts.

On ordinary days in the museum, visitors are struck by memories of people who used the trains. Last weekend, Pun brought those memories to life.

A woman in black glided through the carriages and along the tracks, an implacable spectre bearing an old black Polaroid camera. A camera is after all a machine recording the present so that people in the future can remember the past. She was in another world.

In contrast was another 'ghost', in Burberry-esque raincoat. Her face was tinged with green shadows; she smiled slyly to herself as she passed through the train; she had secrets we would never learn.

The audience was a wider section of the community than CCDC usually attracts. Gossipping Hakka women in black bonnets mixed with regular dance fans from the city, both groups transfixed by the wistful, violent choreography of loss and longing, danced to nanying opera, and schmaltzy violin.

Another key event in the past 80 years of the railway.