Asian-Male Episode showcases dancers from around the region
Original solo pieces, mostly created for this series in sixth edition of annual programme
Introduced by its founder and artistic director Jacky Yu Yan-wah in 2010 as a cultural exchange showcase, Asian-Male Episode remains one of E-Side Dance Company’s most anticipated annual programmes, offering local audience a chance to catch original works by choreographers/ dancers from around the region.
On show are mostly new pieces created especially for this series, which provides a snapshot of today’s contemporary dance scene in Asia: its diverse styles, subjects and aesthetics. The only other opportunity this city gets to see something similar in quality is at the Hong Kong Arts Festival’s Asia Pacific Dance Platform.
Into its sixth edition, this year’s programme presents male choreographers from South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong and, as in the past, they all perform their own solo piece.
Local dancer Henry Shum opens the show with Still, a work that is more fluid and fast-paced than its title might suggest. Set to a mish-mash of electronic tracks, including one by Alva Noto, Shum moves lightly throughout; with the repeated motif of covering up his eyes with both hands, the dancer appears to be playing a game of hide and seek in which the ultimate find will be his own identity.
Also from this city and in search for an answer is Ricky Hu, a promising young dancer and choreographer from the Hong Kong Ballet. Autobiographical in tone, Suit explores the many choices dancers face at the beginning of their career and the decisions they subsequently make. But should they settle for their initial choice for the rest of their lives? Hu showcases his excellent classical techniques in a thoroughly contemporary piece while intelligently balancing his narrative with humour and moments of retrospection. This was a highlight of the programme.
Another highlight was Lee Sun-tae’s The Tree, which is more a movement than a dance piece. The Korean performer uses the tree, which connects “the sky, land, and underground”, as a metaphor of art, suggesting that through art people can return to the essence of life. While this philosophical pondering is not immediately obvious in the performance, what is clear is Lee’s superb control of his contortionist-like body, his physical agility and precision in his movements.
Compatriot Shin Jong-chul also makes good use of his body – especially his hands and fingers – to explore the connection between the visual and sensory realms in Moments of Feeling. The opening sequence looks misleadingly violent (the performer looks like he’s being gunned down to the ground) before the theme gradually emerges in the latter half of the work.
Both Singaporean Marcus Foo’s Yours Usefully, Automatic Animalia [Excerpts] and BU by Ryu Suzuki from Japan make good use of projections (of either videos or shadows) to add mood to their reflective narrative of human relationships and life’s journey respectively. Their pace is slower when compared with other works but the choreography more poetic, especially in Suzuki’s metaphorical search of his identity.