Art of war

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 October, 2004, 12:00am

Twenty-three aspiring dancers from the Dance Society of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) discovered the highs and lows of dance after winning the championship award at the recent 5th Intra-Varsity Dance Competition.

The competition was presented by UniDancity, a non-profit organisation formed by a group of dance enthusiasts from local universities.

The PolyU dancers showcased their talents in a seven-minute performance titled Hitler - a dance work depicting the devastation of war in a cocktail of various styles such as hip-hop, jazz, funk and modern dance.

The performance was set against the backdrop of a collage of black and white images from the second world war and a large red cloth symbolising the bloodshed of war.

The emotionally-charged work was directed by professional choreographers Hiro Lam Man-Fai, Yu Man-kit and Kanex Law Pok-him, who have previously collaborated with many Canto-pop stars for stage performances.

'The main idea for this work came from our choreographers,' said Cherry Lee Chui-yee, president of the PolyU Dance Society. 'But we were also encouraged to incorporate our own thoughts and ideas into the piece.'

Dancer Eric Au Cheong-shing said: 'We were honoured to work with these veteran choreographers. We are only amateurs. Many of us have only practiced dance for a year. Even though we are not up to professional standards yet, the choreographers were very patient. They adjusted the choreography so that we could follow the steps more easily.'

The dancers spent nearly three months in rehearsal, sometimes devoting more than six hours a day to practising and preparing the props.

'Having to act and dance at the same time was very challenging for us. We had two groups of dancers playing the roles of soldiers and victims,' said Lee. 'It was important to show the contrast between the cruelty of soldiers and the suffering of victims.'

Said Au: 'In order to create the mood, we watched a lot of films about the darkness of humanity and the pain of war such as The Passion of the Christ and The Pianist.'

The joy they derived from the live performance, combined with the adrenaline rush and winning the award made them forget the hard training they had endured.

'It sounds like a cliche, but what I learned from dance was not just the steps but the virtue of team spirit,' dancer Vincent Lee Kai-yeung said.

'I learnt to compromise and put away my ego because dance is teamwork.'

In addition to promoting dance at local universities, the annual competition is also a charity event.

Part of proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Children's Education Fund.

'Through this competition, we wanted to show the positive energy of students,' said president of UniDancity Kenneth Chan Kwok-keung.

'This is also a channel for them to help underprivileged children in the mainland.'