Review: Taichi

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 9:42am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 9:42am

Hong Kong Dance Company
Sheung Wan Civic Centre
Reviewed: January 24

Hong Kong Dance Company opened the year with a new installment of its "8/F Platform" series. Its concept is to provide a platform for new, experimental work, in this case by guest choreographer Zeng Huanxing, who lectures at the Beijing Dance Academy.

Appropriately for this Lunar New Year season, Zeng has chosen to explore how the ancient discipline of tai chi, a physical expression of the Chinese philosophy that balance and harmony must be sought in body and spirit, fits with today's hectic urban life. Eclectic and entertaining, if episodic, the production offers some intriguing observations and Zeng's fresh eye brings out new sides to the dancers.

Going back to tai chi's beginnings, the piece opens in semi-darkness with the dancers in peasant dress performing simple movements. A video montage rushes us through the centuries and we find ourselves watching a typical tai chi group, of the kind that can be seen all over modern Hong Kong. The dancers reappear wearing brightly coloured puffer jackets over traditional-style white silk tunics and trousers and start to perform routines in unison.

Then mobile phones begin to ring - yes, this is definitely Hong Kong - and one by one the dancers drop out to answer their calls then return to the group. The conversations reveal the seven dancers' surprisingly strong vocal acting ability - most are comic but there is a chilling moment when one girl learns of a suicide.

The show's main sequence is set to Ravel's Bolero. The whole group dances together and one by one the dancers break away to perform solos. Zeng makes imaginative use of tai chi-based movement and although there are none of the big jumps and spins usually seen in Chinese dance, the dancing is increasingly spectacular as the pace of the music builds. All seven dancers are exceptional and the intimacy of the studio setting gives a new appreciation of their extraordinary speed, control and fluidity.

Natasha Rogai