Moving message: SOTY Performing Artist finalist choreographs dances about Hong Kong’s social issues

  • Joyce Kei Sum-yee, a Year 12 student at Renaissance College, won gold in the Dance World Cup Asian Cup in 2018 and 2019
  • First runner-up in Performing Artist category of 2022 Student of the Year Awards shares how she learned to convey emotion and meaning through dance
Angel Woo |

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Joyce Kei has been dancing since she was five years old. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Joyce Kei Sum-yee once thought dancing was just a form of entertainment that made people happy. But she realised the real power of the medium when, aged 12, she choreographed her own dance.

“A lot of people told me that they were touched by my performance. That was the time I realised that dancing could be more than happy, it could convey so many emotions and meanings,” said Joyce, 16, a Year 12 student at Renaissance College.

She is the first runner-up in the Performing Artist category of the Student of the Year (SOTY) Awards.

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Joyce began to learn dance at five and is skilled in jazz, contemporary dance, ballet and rhythmic gymnastics. She won gold awards in the Dance World Cup Asian Cup in 2018 and 2019, and was also selected as a junior trainee with Hong Kong Ballet.

Recalling her beginnings as a dancer, Joyce said she was always told to keep smiling and be happy while performing, but after she started choreographing, she realised that dancing was more than just about bringing happiness.

When she was preparing for the Dance World Cup in 2018, Joyce felt an urge to choreograph after listening to “This is Me”, a song from the musical The Greatest Showman. Her performance changed the way she saw dancing – she discovered for the first time the power of the unspoken language which allowed her to fully express herself.

Joyce Kei dances an inspiring ballet performance, titled “Hope”, at the Student of the Year Awards ceremony. Photo: SCMP

“Ever since I started choreographing, I realised that dancing is so powerful not just because of the dancing part, but also the meaning behind the dance,” Joyce said.

The dancer, who radiates charm on stage, admitted she was shy and quiet offstage, but she could voice her thoughts through performance.

“Even though I can’t say it [in words], I can dance to a song. That’s the way I talk,” she said.

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Hoping to inspire others through dance, Joyce joined a dance film series called #BeTheChange organised by the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation in 2018 and last year, which aimed to raise awareness of environmental issues.

Motivated by how the producers combined dance with social issues, she decided to choreograph pieces related to mental health. Joyce said she hoped to create more dances related to teenagers’ mental health in the future.

“It is such a big issue that I personally see so much around me,” she said.

The SOTY competition is organised by the South China Morning Post and sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club.

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