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The Value of Historical Materials and Criticism on the Archival Process: ‘Research Project — Oral History of Hong Kong Dance Development’

Dong Xianliang

Translator: Lau Wai-kuen Caddie

A Brief Description of and Some Questions About ‘Research Project — Oral History of Hong Kong Dance Development’

The City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC) was awarded ‘Outstanding Services to Dance’ at the 22nd Hong Kong Dance Awards for its ‘Research Project — Oral History of Hong Kong Dance Development’ (Research Project) in 2020. The award statement reads as follows:


Researchers Lee Hoi-yin Joanna and Lam Heyee spent almost two years conducting, transcribing and analysing interviews in Hong Kong, the US and Canada with ten pioneers of local dance. The book The Unspoken Dance: An Oral History of Hong Kong Dance (1950s–70s) is an invaluable record of the cultural history of Hong Kong dance, preserving the recollections and observations of these key contributors to the development of dance as an art form in our city and inspiring our empathy and understanding for their achievements.[1]

As the statement says, everyone involved has devoted a great deal of time and effort to executing the project, the beginnings of which can be traced back to the ‘Contestable Funding Pilot Scheme for the Major Performing Arts Groups’[2] initiated by the Home Affairs Bureau in 2015. Finally, in 2018, The Unspoken Dance: An Oral History of Hong Kong Dance (1950s–70s) (The Unspoken Dance) was published and a dedicated website built by the CCDC for the project (the Website) was launched.


There are some discrepancies in terms of set-up between the book and the website. The Unspoken Dance is set out in three parts: ‘When Dance Speaks’ is an oral history record of ten interviewees; ‘Illuminations’ comprises the researchers’ essays; ‘Beyond the Dance’ contains an interview of Ringo Chan, a chronology of his life and his stills, and other content. By comparison, the Website is more flexible in terms of classification and organisation. The homepage shows the migration route of each interviewee on a world map, offering clues to the trajectories of their lives. On ‘Interviewee’, when the visitor clicks on any of the interviewees’ names, the sub-menu shows, in the following order, the interviewee’s information, interview summary, hyperlink to the interview article, photo gallery, video excerpt and transcript, and the full video.


Prior to presenting my argument, I hope to talk about Lo Wai-luk’s preface for The Unspoken Dance, from which several thinking directions can be derived. Lo opines that the publication ‘presents an overview of a particular time frame in the development of dance in Hong Kong using the method of oral history. It may be regarded as an examination of the cultural history of Hong Kong dance, and a work of dance criticism in the broader sense.’[3] The ‘dance criticism in the broader sense’, according to his definition, ‘covers art movements, cultural history, and aesthetics: it is the synthesis of subjective descriptions and documentation, historical perspectives, theory and research, and value judgments’.[4] His definition of ‘oral history’ echoes this notion, saying ‘“oral history” is not only a method of collecting historical materials. It is dynamic, and it holds great significance as an opening for the interaction between life and culture. On the one hand, it records the life experiences, retrospection, epiphanies, or even critical self-reflection recounted by the one who has lived the tales. On the other hand, it inspires understanding and empathy for the interviewee’s past in the interviewer and the readers, and reflection on what possible significance the subject of the interview may have in the present-day context.’[5]


When it comes to ‘methodology’, the two paragraphs from Lo’s preface have pointed out certain important elements, but there are blind spots to be cleared. In a more conventional sense, ‘oral history’ is both a research methodology and the result of the research process: the former refers to the process of conducting and recording interviews with people in order to elicit information about the past from them, while the latter means the product of that interview, the narrative account of past events.[6] Therefore, the following questions are necessarily to our discussion of the Research Project — Firstly, what is the nature of oral history and what does it mean to the studies of dance? Secondly, how was the recording of oral history carried out specifically? Lastly, as readers or researchers who may use the record in the future, what critical aspects should we pay attention to?


The Significance of Oral History in the Studies of Dance

To explain the unique significance of the Research Project requires a comparison with the existing historical narratives.


As early as 2000, the Hong Kong Dance Sector Joint Conference published the Chinese-English bilingual Hong Kong Dance History with funding from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. The book gives readers an account of various dances, such as Chinese dance, Western folk dance, social dance, ballet, recreational dance, and modern dance as well as ‘Organization, Institutions, Competitions & Conferences’ in Hong Kong. The approach of writing history based on different types of dance reflects the writer’s aesthetic ideology while exposing the division of power in the dance circle at that time.


There are various forms of dance mentioned in the book, some of which cover a longer historical span.[7] Arranged in chronological order, some dance forms are regarded as part of our culture while some not. Despite the slight difference in segmentation, politics has had an evidently far-reaching influence on the compilation of the book. The writer has apparently taken a political stance in favour of the Han Chinese as events like the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and Hong Kong’s leftist movements in 1967 are considered important factors for the development of dance.


The practice of categorising by type as a standard for discourse on dance seemed to have changed when Why They Dance: Narrations of Hong Kong Dance came six years later, but it turns out it had not. Published by the Hong Kong Dance Alliance, the book is divided into five sections: art director, choreographer, dancer, dance educator and promoter, and multimedia dance. Although the Dance Alliance does not explicitly elaborate on different types of dance in the book, its organisation suggestively reflects the increasingly solid existing system of the dance circle in Hong Kong, with particular reference to the tripartite division of power among the three major government-funded dance companies.


Historical writing built around case studies, just as can be seen in Why They Dance,[8] has been adopted all along. Xianggang dangdai bianwujia zuopin yanjiu (1980–2010): Xianggang dangdai wudao lishi, meixue ji shenfen tanqiu (Studies on works by Hong Kong contemporary choreographers [1980–2010]: Contemporary history, aesthetics and exploration of identity of dance in Hong Kong) edited by Man Kit-wah Eva and published in 2019 should fall into this category.[9] The two publications share the same focus on dance practitioners in recent times as study samples, in spite of the differences in their foci and depths. Coming from the same circle as the contemporaries of the choreographers, the writers wrote based on their own experiences and interviews that they had with them. Their analyses of the works are inclined to adopt a biographical format and the language of discussions, which accurately represent the choreographers’ creative experiences and the textual works that bear the writers’ personal imprint.


In short, the writings on the dance history of Hong Kong exhibit several distinctive features. First, they pay particular attention to the contemporary circumstances of dance. The work of interviewing seems more convenient with such expectations, but upon scrutiny, the interviews are subject to the framework of questioning because understanding the past is not its main objective. Second, because the focus is on the ‘contemporary’, the history at which the writer looks back from the ‘present’ only has vague outlines lacking in detail. The achievements of institutions and organisations often overshadow the life experiences of individuals.


Not only has the period between the 1950s and 1970s been mentioned in the writings on the dance history of Hong Kong, it has always been a ‘stereotypical matter’ for the subject. For instance, Lui Tai-lok once described Hong Kong in the 1970s as ‘seemingly familiar’. Whether or not people have experienced that decade themselves, they would recognise the importance of the period. However, ‘there is already a clear image of what Hong Kong looked like in the 1970s in their mind, and they have reached a high degree of consensus on that even without a completely consistent understanding. That is to say, Hong Kong people take a presumed view of the city in the 1970s and not many of them believe in the need for them to re-examine the decade.’[10]


Much of the ‘presumed views’ in the discourse on the dance history of Hong Kong can be traced back to the period of the 1950s. Even today, the practitioners’ and the public’s basic understanding of Hong Kong’s dance continues to be clouded by this specific historical narrative. Joanna Lee speaks of the situation in her essay:

[M]ore than one person (interviewee) stated that ‘dance did not exist in Hong Kong’ before the 1950s. I am curious about that statement. Given that dance is a means of expression utilising the body, ‘dance’ must have been in existence as far back as the human need for expression arose. It would have taken tremendous effort to ensure the absolute non-existence of dance. Can it possibly be the case that those who made that statement deny, from the perspective of how dance is imagined today, the presence of dance before they became practitioners? After the establishment of professional dance companies and The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in the 1980s, the way dance had been practised in the 1950s and 1960s gradually moved off the centre and towards the margin. At this stage, the Hong Kong dance circle in general accepts professionalisation as the monumental turn in dance development in our city... However, there has been rather limited analysis of the impact the pre-professionalisation dance ecology had on the post-professionalisation one.[11]

Lee’s question shows that: 1) A group of people can dominate how history is constructed as they form certain common views even though their own experiences and opinions are not completely identical; 2) Such consensus gradually consolidates into a specific ideology, which reflects the viewpoint and attitude that most people have adopted by convention; 3) If this ideology is considered in the context of the sequence for the construction of the dance history in Hong Kong, it undoubtedly reinforces the established notion of ‘linear progress’. People constructing discourses keep emphasising the innovations and development in the later period, resulting in a neglected or simplified history. Specifically, prior to the rupture of ‘professionalisation’ with ‘non-professionalisation’ in the 1970s, the older generation of Hong Kong dance practitioners have already constructed a powerful ideological discourse on the basic differentiation of ‘dance’ and ‘non-dance’.


The study samples of Research Project did not appear out of nowhere. Those people are still alive and have started their dance career in the 1950s and 1960s. They have been obscured by or even excluded from the new discourse on dance, and their place in society has been taken by the professionals. Nevertheless, what they believe in has been inherited by emerging arts groups.[12] In this sense, what is special about the Research Project is that the two researchers had to deal with a period which they knew little about and of which the study samples are still alive, and therefore they needed to constantly reflect on the investigation frames they built prior to the interviews and the roles they played during the documentation process.


Criticism of the Process of Recording Oral History

The basic tenet of ‘oral history’ is, after all, ‘history’. Oral account merely provides an entry point for the discussion of history. As the recording proceeds, the entry point becomes wider and other historical materials will be discovered and extracted. While Lo Wai-luk’s evaluation of ‘oral history’ and ‘dance criticism’ has its own merits, it also suggests the problem of a misplaced subject. He describes the former as ‘dynamic’, highlighting the subject position of the interviewees and the connection between the interviewees’ oral accounts and the sociocultural context. The interviewers’ job is to interpret the oral account. Nonetheless, he then mentions that ‘dance criticism’ should emphasise collation and integration through studying. Obviously, the subject has shifted to point to the interviewers.


As the methodologies of oral history are being updated, academics have reached a consensus that all participants in an interview are responsible for its creation and share its authorship.[13] There has been a long tradition of recording historical information based on an oral interview in both China and the West. Historians are enthusiastic about collecting and accessing a wide variety of historical sources out of intense curiosity, but with the sole aim of coming up with their own philosophy. If we are to enhance the significance of the ‘dynamic process’, we must critically examine the interactions between the interviewers and interviewees.


In my interview with Joanna Lee about the execution of Research Project, she explained that the researchers spent four to six hours on interacting with each interviewee. Since their main interviews were conducted face to face, they needed to travel to foreign countries in order to open up conversations, after which they called the interviewees on the phone for supplementary information. They would try to understand the interviewees’ backgrounds as much as possible by preparing questions and materials beforehand and, over the course of time, slowly build their presumptions of the interviewees’ identities. The effect of having certain presumptions during an interview is a mixed bag because an interviewer’s preparations decide whether an interview can go smoothly, while the framework established for an interview can impose limitations. Many details acquired during the interview were omitted as a result. Subject to the theme of the project, the interviewers must have the interview under their control with performing arts as the core, meaning the irrelevant information would be eventually left out in the articles. When Lee recollected the interviews in detail, she admitted that the interviews would not go entirely as planned in the first place and that there were constant unpredictable breakthroughs as the interviews progressed. In other words, ‘an interviewer must always be prepared to abandon carefully drafted questions and follow the interviewee down unexpected paths, always helping the interviewee by questioning, guiding, coaxing, and challenging’.[14]


The final format of The Unspoken Dance is a collection of independent articles based on the oral accounts of ten interviewees. In all the articles, the questions asked by the interviewers were left out and the interviewees’ responses were presented as an uninterrupted narrative. This practice has caused much controversy among oral historians:

This format, by omitting the give-and-take of the interview, obscured the relationship between the interviewer and interviewee, which can significantly influence the discussion. When answering questions, people talk about issues and provide information that they might not have volunteered unprompted. Interviewees often adjust their responses depending on the age, race, gender, and status of the interviewer, providing what they think the interviewer wants to hear, and also to shape the interpretation of the interview.[15]

In that case, can presenting the record in the form of a question-answer complex preserve the dynamics of the interview process? The questions designed by the interviewer in Why They Dance can be a source of reference. When Susan Street interviewed independent choreographers, the first question she asked was: ‘How would you describe the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997?’ She then moved on to ask whether the year 1997 and the political event had affected their artistic career.[16] Following the transcription of the interviewees’ answers, she concluded, ‘What these interviews tell us is that the much-anticipated event of the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 has had very little impact on the working lives of these independent artists. Although being doubted by many, the ways of producing and performing, and finding presenters of dance has changed little under the “one country, two systems” ethos of China’s sovereignty of Hong Kong.’[17] Street’s questioning approach can be summarised as follows: first, she asked different interviewees the same set of questions. Second, all the questions that she listed are not organic and in progression. If anything, her questions were designed for a specific topic as they were not intended to explore the interviewees’ experiences that were yet to be known. The interviewer also seemed to show no interest in historical facts, but rather made an effort to guide the choreographers to speak of their feelings towards certain events.


The importance of ‘facts’ in oral history means that information provided by interviewees is not to be thought of as entirely reliable. For oral accounts, as far as memory is concerned, there must be a certain extent of twisting facts. Researchers should be alert to the situation in which the information provided by interviewees is not necessarily reliable evidence. Meanwhile, we also need to be aware of the limitations of memory itself — does an interviewee know things from his or her own observation or from hearsay? What does the interviewee remember vividly and what does he or she feel indifferent to? Does the interviewee have any prejudices? Is he or she in any conflicts of interest with other people? In the foreword to The Unspoken Dance, Project Director Kevin Wong emphasises that not only does Research Project aim to look at the interviewees’ memories, it also wants to see how they remember things and think about their memories.

We hope to derive different perspectives from these pioneers’ memories, and, in the form of oral history that embodies a personal touch, construct a body of historical materials regarding the early development of Hong Kong dance. We have not only been concerned with events and facts, but we have hoped to unearth the feelings, points of view and opinions of these pioneers in the dance field as they experienced those events and facts at the time, in order to preserve diverse records of dance development. Taking the nature of oral history into consideration, we have included additional information from various materials that contrasts and supplements the perspectives of oral history.[18]


However, we cannot directly take the written texts of ‘When Dance Speaks’ in The Unspoken Dance as the memory framework of the interviewees. Joanna Lee was frank about the fact that the target readers of the book were not professional researchers, and she was also mindful that the oral accounts collected for the project could not be used directly as primary materials because they had been rather heavily edited. That said, Research Project provides a means to observe again how oral accounts are being woven. In The Unspoken Dance, the interviewees’ logic has been deliberately tweaked. By comparing the book’s content with the full videos of the interviews on the Website, readers can discover the tensions between the two presentations and try to recover the historical facts that are closer to the memory framework of the interviewees.


From wax cylinders to gramophone records, cassette tapes and video recorders, advancements in technological devices have led to breakthroughs in the development of oral history, making file storage and sharing more convenient and providing more ways of transcribing recordings. Interviewers no longer store their records in archives, but on the web, which serves as a platform for public access and use. The Website provides two types of video records: a more complete version of the videos (regardless of the discontinuities between shots that reveal traces of editing); another a condensed version selected and edited by the researchers.


Based on the first few paragraphs of Ng Sai-fun’s oral account, I try to cast some light on the approach of criticising oral history by comparing the differences between the presentations of the video and written text.


Transcribing conversations in vernacular Chinese into the standard written form is an inevitable challenge for recording oral accounts in Hong Kong. Some Cantonese colloquialisms do not appear in the articles. A good example of this is the phrase tigeng (dek8 gaang1), meaning ‘to flee’. Certain phrases for expressing emotions are also translated into words that are easier to understand. For instance, when it comes to Ng’s decision to desert the Communist Army, the article says, ‘Yet I felt ill at ease in the army, and I decided to desert’. The actual wording that he used should be ‘not fulfilled’. As he was recalling his feelings about his military experience at the time, he repeated ‘not’ as in ‘not... not... not fulfilled’. The stuttering reveals his attempt to justify his experience as an ‘army deserter’ with the right vocabulary. The word ‘deserter’ never appears in Ng’s oral narrative. On the contrary, Lam Heyee uttered the words as a reflex: ‘You were a deserter, weren’t you?’ Ng did not make any comments about that remark and switched to recounting how he had joined the Zhengqi jingju tuan (Righteous Beijing Opera Troupe).


The biggest difference between the article and the video record is the logic behind the language use of the interviewee. According to the article, the interviewee ‘was accepted into the training unit of the Republic of China Military Academy where he was trained in sending telegrams. At age 17, he became a second lieutenant.’ Ng did not say what he had learned at the military school until he spoke of his capture by the Communist Army. He emphasised that he had told no one about ‘being trained’ in sending telegrams. I am curious about the logic as to what circumstances led him to mention his telegram training. From what is shown in the full video, the experience of being captured by the enemy is of great importance to Ng. Otherwise, he would not have included it as part of his military school experience.


Besides, the interviewers often kept raising questions in the video and bringing up details which the interviewee might have had no intention to discuss. Lee asked Ng for his views on ballet several times in the interview: the first time was about the comparison of ballet with Chinese dance; the second was about why he performed a Russian dance routine (which Ng called ‘dumb shorty’) in a job interview with the Great Wall Movie Enterprise; the third was about the overall situation of dance development in Hong Kong back then. When answering the last question, Ng said, ‘With the subsequent rise in living standards and people’s income in Hong Kong, there were more people learning ballet and to play the piano, as these activities came to be regarded as symbols of social status.’ In the preceding sentence, he said, ‘The majority of female students were British. The Chinese ones were mostly from wealthy families.’ The answer came after around one hour into the interview as shown in the full record, but in the article, it is placed in the first section ‘From the Army to Ballet School’. This shows that the researchers have replaced the logic in the interviewee’s oral account with the chronology of his life when presenting the interview content in the article. Moreover, the article might have left out trivial morsels which the interviewee cares about and are kept in the videos. Every now and then Ng would mention information about wages. When he talked about joining left-wing labour unions for voluntary work, he added ‘there’s no money in this!’ He also stressed that male students were exempted from paying tuition fees when he told of his times at the ballet school, and after that he brought up his job at Great Wall and being approached by Shaw Brothers Limited. It is apparent that, regardless of what decision he had to make, wages and living conditions were always some of the main issues that concerned him.


Most of the examples used in the comparison above have little direct relevance to the creation of dance works. This raises a thought-provoking question — what exactly do the ‘oral accounts’ of ‘dance’ record? We can never fully imagine the knack for doing the special stretches and splits that Ng talked about, no matter whether we read the article or watch the interview. The advantage of the inclination of those ‘oral accounts’ as ‘archival memory’ is its stability as a medium not subject to the restrictions of time and space. When we deal with this kind of memory, we can distil the ‘knowledge’ from the interviewees, which is unlike others’ interpretations of the record. In contrast, the ‘embodied memory’ in a ‘repertoire’ represents another species of ephemeral and non-reproducible knowledge, and it requires the actual ‘presence’ and ‘transmission’ of the one involved to complete the processes of uncovering and creating knowledge.[19]


Further Thoughts: The Disappearance and Restoration of Dance Ecology

Kevin Wong describes the ten interviewees’ views on the dance ecology between the 1950s and the 1970s as ‘diverse records’. In fact, we must pay heed to the connections between personal and collective histories, while abandoning the thought of what we always assume is true. Put another way, we take it for granted that the sum of the ten people’s memory is enough to represent the overall history of dance of that period of time. ‘Collective history’ is more than that and contains signs with symbolic meanings, as scholars would point out that certain landscapes and festivals are manifestations of collective notions.[20] How do we unearth the collective memory that the interviewees share? Can we even question the existence of an actual dance sector when we are exploring the memory?


Such diversity would eventually surface if further studies were carried out on Research Project in the context of its initial plan. For instance, how were those ten interviewees for The Unspoken Dance decided? According to Lee, it was not practicable for them to select interviewees at the initial stage of the project based on the dance forms that the Hong Kong dance community has defined, because the researchers needed the resources and networks that the established organisations have accumulated for years. Some of the ways they chose their interviewees included: 1) Referrals from acquaintances. Ringo Chan, who was working at the CCDC, provided clues about who to include, but the researchers needed to find ways to contact the interviewees. 2) (Referrals from) Organisations still in operation, such as the Hong Kong Chinese Reform Association, the Hong Kong Dance Federation, and the Association of Hong Kong Dance Organizations. From my observation, Lee’s information and oral accounts show a continuity in the dance ecology over the period before and after the professionalisation, as reflected in the identities and backgrounds of the ten interviewees. To illustrate this point, Ng Sai-fun, Kwok Sai-ngai Stephen, Cheng Wai-yung and Lau Siu-ming are founders and members of the Hong Kong Dance Federation. Stephen Kwok also founded the Hong Kong Ballet Group, within which the divergence of views led to the establishment of the Hong Kong Ballet. Julie Ng was a core member of the Hong Kong Ballet For All in its early development and was closely affiliated with the Schools’ Dance Festival. Other left-wing groups and television and film production companies mentioned in the project provide clues to understanding that aspect.[21] In view of the above, the researchers’ snowball approach, where one source led to another and so on, reckons with the facts that the cultural and arts system before the 1970s is disappearing or has undergone considerable modification.


The connection between individuals’ experiences and group identity is constantly sought after. As Connerton describes, ‘We situate the agents’ behaviour with reference to its place in their life history; and we situate that behaviour also with reference to its place in the history of the social settings to which they belong. The narrative of one life is part of an interconnecting set of narratives; it is embedded in the story of those groups from which individuals derive their identity.’[22] Unlike the oral history that one can always find in field research, the drawback of interviews with performing arts practitioners is that many who followed a career in dance between the 1950s and 1970s have left and scattered due to social changes. The dance organisations that are still operating are no longer what they were like at that time.


In the face of the shattered ecology of dance, how do we restore it? Among the projects funded by the Home Affairs Bureau over the years, only a very small proportion identified history, documents and archives as research themes. Research Project is even the only example of a dance group applying for the funds. The dance ecology of Hong Kong is production-based and makes any retrospective studies a kind of luxury. This project serves as a witness account of the restoration process of the ecological structure of dance from the olden days. Although history should not be an attempt of reproducing the past driven by the indulgence in nostalgia, Research Project has surely brought the public closer to the history of dance.






[1] Hong Kong Dance Alliance, 22nd Hong Kong Dance Awards 2020 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Dance Alliance, 2020), 36–37.

[2] Applications regarding preserving historical records processed so far include the Chung Ying Theatre Company’s ‘Treasure of Tomorrow: Chung Ying Archive’ in 2017 and Zuni Icosahedron’s ‘“Zuni Experimental Theatre Arts Archive: Danny Yung’ in 2016. ‘Contestable Funding Pilot Scheme for the Major Performing Arts Groups,’ Home Affairs Bureau, accessed 7 December, 2020,

[3] Lo Wai-luk, ‘Preface: The Interaction between Life and Culture,’ in The Unspoken Dance: An Oral History of Hong Kong Dance (1950s–70s), ed. Nicolette Wong (Hong Kong: City Contemporary Dance Company; International Association of Theatre Critics [Hong Kong], 2018), 13.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 16–17.

[6] Lynn Abrams, Oral History Theory (London and New York: Routledge, 2010), 2.

[7] Hong Kong Dance Sector Joint Conference, Hong Kong Dance History (Hong Kong: Cosmos Books Ltd., 2000), VI–VIII.

[8] Wei, Betty, Brown, Tom, Sze, Cecil, eds., Why They Dance: Narrations of Hong Kong Dance (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Dance Alliance, 2006).

[9] Man Kit-wah Eva, ed., Xianggang dangdai bianwujia zuopin yanjiu (1980–2010): Xianggang dangdai wudao lishi, meixue ji shenfen tanqiu (Studies on works by Hong Kong contemporary choreographers (1980–2010): Contemporary history, aesthetics and exploration of identity of dance in Hong Kong) (Hong Kong: International Association of Theatre Critics [Hong Kong], 2019).

[10] Lui Tai-lok, Na si ceng xiangshi de qishiniandai (zeng ding ban) (The seemingly familiar decade of the 1970s [rev. ed.]) (Hong Kong: Zhonghua shuju, 2020), iv.

[11] Lee Hoi-yin Joanna, ‘On the Watershed, Looking Back — The Combing of the Characteristics and Achievement of Hong Kong Dance Prior to Its Professionalisation,’ in The Unspoken Dance: An Oral History of Hong Kong Dance (1950s–70s), ed. Nicolette Wong (Hong Kong: City Contemporary Dance Company; International Association of Theatre Critics [Hong Kong], 2018), 347–348.

[12] The Schools Dance Festival is a case in point. The source of teachers training students for dance competitions is becoming more dependent on dancers with an art school degree. In the era of professionalisation, early Hong Kong dance practitioners indeed have limited influence in that regard. However, what they said has been deeply rooted in the dance circle and the dance system that they established is still exerting influence.

[13] Donald A. Ritchie, Doing Oral History, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 12.

[14] Ibid., 14.

[15] Donald A. Ritchie, The Oxford Handbook of Oral History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 7–8.

[16] Note 8, 227–256.

[17] Ibid., 256.

[18] Kevin Wong, ‘Foreword,’ in The Unspoken Dance: An Oral History of Hong Kong Dance (1950s–70s), ed. Nicolette Wong (Hong Kong: City Contemporary Dance Company; International Association of Theatre Critics [Hong Kong], 2018), 8–9.

[19] For discussion on ‘archive’ and ‘repertoire’, see Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 1–52.

[20] Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

[21] Lam Heyee’s article utilises ‘politics’ as an entry point for an alternative perspective as she does not simply describe the developments of different organisations; instead, she treats them as a series of activities under the influence of the left-wing forces in Hong Kong (or as ‘rituals’). Lam Heyee, ‘Dance, Times, Politics — The Dance that Evolved through the Political Vortex of the 1950s and 1960s,’ in The Unspoken Dance: An Oral History of Hong Kong Dance (1950s–70s), ed. Nicolette Wong (Hong Kong: City Contemporary Dance Company; International Association of Theatre Critics [Hong Kong], 2018), 382–421.

[22] Note 20, 21.


The Unspoken Dance: An Oral History of Hong Kong Dance (1950s-70s). Image courtesy of City Contemporary Dance Company.


The research team and its interviewee Ng Sai-fun. Photographer: Wilfred Wong. Image courtesy of Lee Hoi-yin Joanna.

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