City Contemporary Dance Company
HK Cultural Centre Studio Theatre
Reviewed: Jul 4
Helen Lai Hoi-ling's new work for City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC) is an intimate piece that takes the audience into the world of the dancer. In a casual, relaxed atmosphere the dancers behave as if they're in the studio rather than on stage, getting up to perform then sitting with the audience to watch their colleagues.
A revealing series of sequences explores their lives through their own eyes, movement and words, in recorded interviews played as part of the soundtrack. There is much humour interspersed with darker moments. Themes include the fear of losing your bearings on stage or failing to live up to expectations and the problems of struggling with impractical costumes. There's also the obsession with the body as the dancer's instrument (will it be flexible enough, strong enough, beautiful enough?) and the unforgiving mirror they must face when they work in the studio, the twin to the audience they must face when they perform.
Former CCDC dancer turned linguistic scholar Sunny Pang adds a gently commanding presence with interventions in three languages and a subtle tribute to Chinese opera movement. A highlight of the show is his unaccompanied rendition of Cole Porter's Begin the Beguine, to which Joann Chou and Dominic Wong portray an elderly couple performing a duet. Funny and tender, it suggests gracefully that the physical limitations of old age are not a barrier to dance, or to love.
The dancers (including Jennifer Mok, below) seem to have contributed more than usual to the choreography, which reflects their individual styles and personalities.
Very Dance! is a minor work in Lai's oeuvre, but like a sketch by a great painter it shows her mastery of her craft.
She has used the arena format of the Cultural Centre Studio Theatre with the audience on four sides with skill, a difficult feat for dance. Goh Boon An's lighting and Yuri Ng's costumes are excellent. The Meredith Monk music, however, becomes monotonous.