City Contemporary Dance Company
Kwai Tsing Theatre
Reviewed: Oct 5
Willy Tsao Sing-yuen's new full-length work for the City Contemporary Dance Company is inspired by the story of General Gao Changgong, a legend of the Northern Qi dynasty, whose military triumphs and popularity made the emperor fear he would take over the throne. Gao (Warrior Lanling) was executed by poisoned wine, which he drank with unwavering stoicism.
Tsao's work draws a fascinating parallel between this rise and fall of a Chinese hero and the heroes of Greek tragedy. Tsao has chosen four of the company's finest dancers - Xing Liang, Dominic Wong, Yang Yuntao and Chan Yi-jing - to portray different aspects of the character.
The piece opens with an intense sequence where the four dance together, forming a single, united figure, then splitting into individual elements. This is followed by four sections: Of Youth, Of Masquerade, Of Victory and Of Death.
Tsao has cleverly structured these scenes to echo Greek classical tragedy, with a protagonist accompanied by a group of dancers forming the chorus, sometimes interacting with them, sometimes dancing alone. The piece ends with a great theatrical moment in which all four dancers are reunited as they drink the poison and walk off together into a blinding light.
The piece has an outstanding original score by Chan Hing-yan, written for traditional Chinese instruments but sounding startlingly modern. The musicians play on stage, seated high above the dancers on a curved brick wall that forms the set. Music and dance form a seamless dialogue, which is all the more remarkable given that there's no conductor.
It's a powerful, atmospheric work that shows Tsao at his best as a choreographer. The performances are superb, and the production is enhanced by excellent set, costume and lighting designs, respectively by Ewing Chan, David Sheekwan and Goh Boon Ann.