A merry day of dance
Come Sunday, you can choose to spin joyfully on your head or twirl merrily on the tips of your toes. April 29 is International Dance Day, you see.
The day was first introduced in 1982 by Unesco on the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, the French creator of modern ballet.
In honour of the day, the Hong Kong Dance Federation will organise a dance party at Tsuen Wan Town Hall this Sunday.
Activities will feature guest performances and workshops where people can pick up some easy-breezy grooves. A highlight will be a dance competition with 18 groups. Their task will be to choreograph a signature folk dance for Hong Kong.
The association's executive director Virginia Lo says Tsuen Wan has been selected as the venue with good reason.
'The idea behind International Dance Day is to bring dance everywhere,' Lo says. 'Most of the dance troupes will be from the New Territories.'
A long-time dancer, Lo says she has seen huge changes in the territory's dance culture over the years. 'The British brought in their folk dance and Scottish country dance back in the 1950s,' she says. Ballet, too, caught on with better-off families, she adds.
Then in the 1960s, folk dance started to gather momentum. The genre enjoyed government support as a form of social activity. The first-ever Hong Kong Dance Festival in 1965 featured only folk dance.
Although Chinese dance has been around since the 1930s, it wasn't until the 1970s that it started gaining popularity.
Many Chinese immigrants from Southeast Asian countries brought their traditional dance culture with them at the time.
'That sped up the development of local Chinese dance tremendously,' Lo says.
In the late 1970s, American dancer Daryl Ries brought contemporary dance to Hong Kong. Then came the establishment of the Hong Kong City Contemporary Dance Company, a professional dance troupe. Contemporary dance began to bloom.
Finally, hip hop arrived in the 1990s and caught on quickly with the young.
Ballroom dance, Lo says, is another Hong Kong favourite. The genre is often pursued as a competitive sport. Its official association, the International Dance Sport Federation, was recognised by the International Olympic Committee in 1997.
'It is a sport where people get to wear beautiful costumes,' Lo says. 'That's why it is popular.'
Hong Kong's dance scene has never been as vibrant as it is today. Lo estimates that there are 188 amateur dance companies across the territory, offering classes in a variety of styles.
There are also three professional dance troupes in the city. The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts offers quality courses in various dance styles.
Yet Hong Kong's dance scene isn't without challenges.
'There are just not enough venues to perform,' Lo notes.
Through the government's venue partnership scheme, some performance groups are partnered with a venue and granted access for up to seven weeks. That scheme gives more space for some groups to display their talents, but may make booking venues harder for others.
'Hopefully, we will see the West Kowloon Cultural Hub established very soon,' Lo says.
'That could ease some of the pressure.'
The event will take place on Sunday in the auditorium of Tsuen Wan Town Hall from 12.30pm to 5pm. Limited spots for the dance workshop will be available for walk-ins