BLAZING NEW VISION FOR THE ARTS
Upcoming festival offers a different approach to discovering culture through a range of media from ballet and opera to hip hop and electronic rock
One key aim of the upcoming New Vision Arts Festival is to give audiences the chance to extend their cultural horizons.
To that end, the programme of events put together by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) features a series of cutting-edge performances and pioneering collaborations, which will foster new creative talent and put the spotlight on forward-looking international artists.
“By helping artists and audiences explore trailblazing frontiers, New Vision is widening the reach of the arts in Hong Kong,” says Alex Cheung, senior manager of the LCSD’s festivals office. “One of the goals of this biennial event has always been to challenge the conventional and broaden realisations and concepts of ‘art’. This year is no exception.”
Indeed, the free-form contemporary ballet Tree of Codes, which kicks things off with three performances at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre from October 19-21, makes that clear.
It brings together the talents of director and choreographer Wayne McGregor, visual artist Olafur Eliasson and musician Jamie xx in a groundbreaking production combining literature, architecture, sculpture, space design and the performing arts.
Taking inspiration from the novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer, the intention is to reinvent a traditional form and produce an entirely new kind of artwork. Along the way, the audience is drawn into a shifting, multilayered realm of light, music and mirrors. And the stage is constantly alive with movement, evolving sets, and screen doors which mimic the opening pages of the book.
McGregor is widely recognised for innovations in performance that have radically redefined dance in the modern era. As a result, he is in demand as a chorographer for theatre, opera, film and music videos, as well as being regularly commissioned to create new works with leading ballet companies around the world.
Tree of Codes, with its stark score and eye-catching visuals, has been described as “an extraordinary artistic triumph”. Hong Kong audiences will not want to miss out.
Another highlight to look forward to is Angel’s Bone by composer Du Yun and librettist Royce Vavrek, which will be performed at the Kwai Tsing Theatre Auditorium on November 10-11.
Using a powerful combination of opera, pop electronic rock, chamber music, cabaret and the spoken word, this new work examines the pressing problem of human trafficking in a story that follows the plight of two angels. Their nostalgia for earthly delights has led them to make the long journey back to our world. However, they are found by an impecunious married couple who decide to exploit the two angels for personal and financial gain, calling to mind the dark effects of modern-day slavery and the motivations behind it.
This is undoubtedly a tough subject, and it is tackled in uncompromising fashion. Importantly, though, it also sheds light on an issue society must not ignore and on the choices, emotions and psychology of all those involved.
“Art, at its best, functions to provoke and suggest,” says Du Yun, who hails from Shanghai, but is based in New York.
“When we choose to have our characters sing, we tackle a phenomenon: we too can be any of these people – angels or not, middlemen or not.”
Also departing from conventional norms, Swan Lake / Loch na hEala by Ireland’s Teac Damsa leaves behind the usual classical ballet format of one of the world’s best-loved tales to deliver a truly uplifting dance-theatre performance.
Michael Keegan-Dolan, the show’s writer, director and choreographer uses a searing original score to give a voice to people on the margins of modern society. In doing so, he lets his imagination run free to create a world of magical realism and powerful imagery, which has its roots in a place where modern Ireland and the country’s ancient mythology come together.
With a new score that combines Nordic and traditional Irish music with more experimental influences, this Swan Lake has won prizes and plaudits and been commended by The Irish Times as “a stunning piece of theatre, simultaneously compelling, disturbing and breathtakingly beautiful”. Performances will take place at the Kwai Tsing Theatre Auditorium on November 16-18.
As a counterpoint to that, the central theme of Negotiation by Olé Khamchanla and Pichet Klunchun is an in-depth dialogue between two internationally renowned Asian dancers. They draw out the contrasts and connections between the high culture of old-style court traditions and modern-day street hip hop, and explore how each style touches body, mind and spirit.
The underlying question is what constitutes and builds a distinct culture, and whether traditions can be reinterpreted and transformed. Fans of old-and new-style dance will be able to draw their own conclusions at the Hong Kong City Hall Theatre on November 2-3.