Higher, bigger stage
In a commercially minded city such as Hong Kong, where students often feel parental pressure to conform to certain career choices, the performing arts don't enjoy the highest of profiles. But the field does offer good and varied career prospects, according to Christi Lee, assistant corporate communications manager at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA).
The HKAPA was set up by the government in 1984 to foster training, education and research in the performing and related theatre and entertainment arts. Its premises, which contain some of Hong Kong's busiest performance venues, are on the Wan Chai waterfront.
'Graduates from the academy have a diversified career path,' Lee says. 'Apart from working as professionals in the field, some work on contracts with established companies in the industry, while others work on a freelance basis. Some graduates form independent production groups for specific performances. Some are engaged in education, in teaching and in community contexts, and others work in arts administration.'
The HKAPA provides professional undergraduate education and practice-based postgraduate studies in the disciplines of dance, drama, film and television, music, theatre and entertainment arts, and Chinese traditional theatre. Students learn through practising the arts, rather than learning about them, and there are many opportunities for public performances and practical production work.
For instance, the School of Music helps organise students to perform at concerts at Government House, as extra players in professional orchestras, and as players of chamber or solo music at various public and private functions.
Dance students, especially those in their senior years, are frequently invited to participate in productions by local and visiting international professional dance companies.
Actress, singer, dancer and choreographer Angela Lam graduated in 2004, majoring in musical theatre dance at the HKAPA. She entered the academy after she completed Form Five, and was soon determined to pursue a career in the performing arts after her talents and potential were recognised.
She was the host and vocalist for the Hong Kong Disneyland shows Golden Mickeys and High School Musical Live, and has also performed with numerous other local theatre production troupes, including the Actors' Family's upcoming musical, How To Be A Star, with veteran singers Elisa Chan and Alice Lau, in March. Lam also travels and performs outside Hong Kong and is receiving more opportunities to perform on mainland China.
'The four-year programme at the HKAPA has given me sufficient practical training on the necessary skills and techniques, but more importantly, it has prepared in me the mentality of a performer,' says Lam.
Lee agrees. 'The programmes develop students into professional performers or creative artists, by integrating professional education and training in the chosen art disciplines with a range of liberal arts and language studies,' she says.
Lee points out that there are wider benefits to be had from acquiring such an education. 'Our educational philosophy reflects the cultural diversity of Hong Kong, with its emphasis on Chinese and Western traditions, and interdisciplinary learning.'
With its international student body and faculty, the HKAPA offers global opportunities to budding artists, Lee adds.