Commentary

Catherine Yau
Independent dance practitioner with rich art administration and dance education experience. She writes about dance and is a guest lecturer of dance courses of The Education University of Hong Kong.

It is commendable that the three editors of Hong Kong Dance Overview 2017 position the publication as ‘research-based, with the potential to be recognised as an academic one’. Its bi-lingual, in-depth analyses of the dance scene fill the void in Hong Kong’s dance research and discourse and enrich the library of local dance literature which is gradually building up in recent years. To publish in Chinese and English allows Hong Kong’s dance research to be visible in international performing arts study platforms, hopefully drawing more attention as a result. The various perspectives presented in the Overview opens readers’ ways and levels of viewing dance.   

 

The background of the writers of the Overview is varied: scholar of cultural policies, performing arts critic and planner, independent producers with respectively visual arts and dance company experience. Their ways of approaching their topics and the difference in their research methodologies have provided the dance discourse of 2017 with ‘alternative’ viewpoints and written presentation.

    

Having said the above, ‘within the parameters of resources’ (Foreword) there seems to be a limitation to the comprehensiveness of the ‘overview’ for ‘Hong Kong dance’. It is probably more appropriate to name this publication in the direction of ‘focused studies of the dance phenomena’. When resources availability allows, it would be intuitive to provide a summary of Hong Kong’s dance in 2017 so that the readers could contextualise, multi-dimensionally, the four essay topics in relation to local dance development. 

 

Two out of four essays discuss CCDF (the 1st City Contemporary Dance Festival). It is telling of the significance of the Festival in the 2017 dance scene.  

 

In ‘After the Festival—Insights for Hong Kong’s Dance Sector from the 1st City Contemporary Dance Festival (CCDF)’, Wong Chung-yu Eveline discusses, within the framework of ‘glocalisation’, the Festival’s positioning, programming, operation and its connection with local audience.

 

Wong evaluates the Festival and asked a number of meaningful questions: what should the considerations be when ‘Guangdong Modern Dance Festival’ originated in the Mainland was transplanted to Hong Kong; how to avoid the ‘over-concentration of authority’ during the programme selection process; how to further promote dance by connecting the Festival with local dance artists and audience. Wong introduces case studies of Taiwan and the U.K. as reference for planning and practice for CCDC and the readers.

 

The essay captures the interview with Kevin Wong, Director of CCDC Dance Centre, during which he said that CCDF has the idea of art market on its plan. Presenters were invited to Hong Kong to check out the samples (dance pieces). The idea and execution of art market has been around for some time. In recent years, Hong Kong Arts Development Council has been putting in a lot of effort in promoting local artists’ participation in art/ dance markets, for example Tanzmesse in Dusseldorf (Germany), PAMS in Seoul (Korea) and CINARS in Montréal (Canada). Similar to the expositions of other industries, the focus audience of art markets are ‘presenters’ who choose, within a condensed period of visit, programmes that fit his/her own festivals. These art markets are different from art/ dance festivals that face the public. Art markets case studies are recommended for this essay for the sake of complimenting the scope of reference.     

 

Wong wonders if CCDF can be ‘more than a dance art market’ and bring positive impact to the local dance ecology. This is feasible but it requires continuous contemplation and implementation.

 

Chan Kwok-wai Bernice also discusses CCDF. In ‘The Considerations of Organisers of Art Criticism Events: On the ‘City Contemporary Dance Festival Chatbox Forum 2017’, from the perspective of art critic and planner, Chan explores the considerations and difficulties of promoting dance criticism based on her experience with CCDF.    

 

The 3rd consideration in her essay, namely on ‘Asia’, is of particular value. By virtue of her sensitivity to vocabularies and their meanings as a critic, she examines how ‘Asia’ is mentioned in the Festival and the incongruity of meaning between the Forum’s Chinese (‘new imagination’) and English (‘Re-imagine’) names. This finely demonstrates the importance of critics in art events—to identify the connection between ‘text’ and ‘meaning’ so that the producers and audience will observe and reflect more meticulously, inducing more nuanced planning consideration in the future: not because ‘Asia’ as the focus of recent years draws eyeballs but its deep underlying meaning to the dance and art circle in Hong Kong and Asia as a significant cultural event.       

 

It seems to me that the several considerations that Chan has raised is true across different art forms (especially in Hong Kong), therefore I am curious to learn if she has, out of this very experience of planning dance criticism event, formulated ideas specific to ‘dance’ criticism or the promotion of ‘dance’ criticism in Hong Kong.

 

All in all, Hong Kong Dance Overview 2017 supplies readers with diversified reflection and reading of Hong Kong dance in the titled year. The unique viewpoints of the writers invite feedback and discussion. What is as important for future publications of similar nature is not to ‘end’ with printed matters and online text but to trigger extended investigation.

 

(Translated by Lee Hoi-yin Joanna from the original article in Chinese)