If there is one word to sum up Fragrance: A Dance Poem On Hong Kong by the Association of Hong Kong Dance Organisations, it is ambitious. The 12 choreographers, using a cast of 400 dancers acting out eight scenes without a particular storyline, will attempt to represent the history of Hong Kong through folklore and mythology of this extraordinary city perched on the edge of China. Recognising the textbook history of how the former territory transformed itself from barren rock into an international financial centre, chief choreographer Law Yiu-wai said there was another side to the story. 'Hong Kong people are inundated by references to their toiling and getting-rich-quick mentality, but they are also versatile people,' he said. The idea of profiling Hong Kong in a dance was conceived two years ago. With a dozen choreographers involved, discussions of what to include and discard were inevitably lively, and crisp decisions had to be made. They originally planned to present a chronological account of Hong Kong's history, from its birth as a colony, through the suffering of World War II, to its post-war transformation, Law said. But in the end they decided to present the story in a more abstract way, from the anecdotal accounts of ordinary people's lives. 'When we are small, we often hear how eight people in a family crammed to live on a single bed, and how the underprivileged captured their golden opportunities to become rich and famous,' he said. 'We'll take in those familiar stories, but don't always want to be too historical.' Scenes include one with a ferry pier coolie after the war who is so thrilled to learn he has won the lottery he throws his pole into the sea, only to realise seconds later that his ticket is inside the pole. This was an urban myth Law heard during his childhood. Another scene shows how a factory fire leads to a reconciliation between bosses and workers. There are also scenes from the Japanese occupation, the 1960s water-rationing schemes, the pre-war hardships and Hong Kong's most recent historical event - the handover. Despite Law's insistence that Fragrance is 'apolitical and avoids aligning with any political side', the final scene, depicting the handover, is called 'The Dream Comes True' and is unambiguously a happy ending. Also, he has recruited a number of overseas Chinese dancers for the final scene, who volunteered to be involved as a sign of 'patriotism', because, Law said, 'they felt the change of sovereignty impacts them as much as it does the local Chinese people'. The dance poem was not all rosy, the choreographers insisted. 'We are not just documenting the grand moments in history or focusing only on the virtues of Hong Kong people,' Law said. He said several issues of corruption and labour disputes come into play, but that some of the choreographers had chosen a lighter or even comic approach to them. Yeung Chi-kuk, another choreographer, agreed it was important to treat important issues in an interesting way. 'There are 12 of us. If we all make the dance nothing but doom and gloom [when we deal with serious issues], it'll be repetitive.' The task remains an enormous one: to transform the stage and bring the audience along in the time machine of their imagination. The eight scenes will be vaguely delineated by slides - of scenery, fires and squatter camps - projected against the backdrop. Props and staging were kept to a minimum, and costumes - co-ordinated by celebrated local designer William Tang - were 'relatively plain, without much embellishment', Yeung said. Dancers will wear a diverse range of clothes from the late Qing Dynasty's baggy shirts with wide-sleeves, to the more skimpy fashion statements of the 60s. The association, established in 1992, has 31 member troupes and more than 5,000 dancers. Most of the dancers in this show are amateurs aged about three to 43. As many had other commitments, they had to spend hours of spare time practising for this show. They usually rehearse the eight scenes separately, but plan to come together for four full rehearsals before the opening tomorrow night. The news of the dance's composer Yip Shun-chi's death from cancer in September stunned the troupe and the original music was eventually completed by his son. 'We all felt dreadful but somewhat prepared because we heard back in April that Mr Yip was seriously ill,' Law said. 'We hope our dance will do justice to his beautiful piece of music. 'We also want to prove that an amateur dance group can also perform a dance of this scale and historical significance.' Fragrance: A Dance Poem On Hong Kong will be staged at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre on January 3 and 4 from 7.30pm.