Dancers explore tension between individuals, group in play

2024-01-17 03:17
BY admin

Review by William Chan

        The local art organisation, T Theatre, held a performance titled “一起PLAY” [“Play Together”] at its venue in Nape on Saturday.

The production featured artistes from the Greater Bay Area (GBA), from Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Macau, as well as a French artiste. Together, they delved into the tension and conflict between an artiste’s personal will and the characterisation of the play.

Established in 2016, T Theatre not only serves as the name of the venue in Nape but also promotes various forms of choreography, aiming to explore diverse body practices across different media and backgrounds.

Prior to Saturday’s performance, Guo Rui, co-creator, choreographer, and performer, briefly spoke to the Post. He highlighted the contradiction he often faces as an artiste between “we” and “I”, noting, “When I was studying in the mainland, the concept of wholeness always took precedence over individuality. This aligns with Chinese philosophy and extends to the cultural and artistic world as well. However, when I studied in the Western world, the mindset shifted, and individuality was emphasised. This experience led me to contemplate how individuality and group identity intertwine on stage.”

During the performance, Guo shared insights about his past with the audience. He revealed that in Chinese ethnic dance, each dancer’s sole responsibility is to fulfil the requirements of the choreography. Every movement and even the slightest smile on their face must be precise to convey a specific mood designated by the director or dance teacher. Guo said, “The only freedom I knew of was during warm-ups, where I could at least choose the exercises to stretch my body.”

Studying in the West, Guo was shocked by the emphasis placed on individuality, almost to an excessive extent. These contrasting experiences prompted him to ponder how aesthetics and ideologies, influenced by diverse backgrounds, can come together and collaborate.

Throughout the performance, dancers took turns in exploring related themes. The concept of choice is a major theme, as it reflects the freedom possessed by the artistes. They first explain their thoughts and backgrounds and then use their bodies to convey their meanings and challenges.

The climax of the performance occurred when Guo Rui, leading the other dancers, employed facial expressions – a hallmark of Chinese ethnic dance –during a performance. This created an intriguing dynamic between artistes with distinct backgrounds, demonstrating that identity, aesthetics, personality, and group dynamics do not always conflict but can coexist harmoniously between “we” and “I”.

Another intriguing aspect of the performance was the breaking of the division between onstage and offstage. The performers engaged in improvised dance moves within the room, surrounding the audience. They suddenly sat down and had conversations with the audience before rising to continue dancing, emphasising that there is no strict separation between their daily life activity like that of a conversation and their performance.

The section concluded with a Chinese dance performed by local dancer Cynthia. She invited individual members of the audience to sit on the ground while she danced around them. The other performers began to hum in a temple-like harmony, creating a sense of ritual.

一起PLAY” is not only creative and boundary-breaking but, more significantly, it raises questions or presents new questions for the path of contemporary performers to explore.

Local dancer Cynthia performs a Chinese dance while other performers humming  in the background.

Guo Rui (centre) and other artistes perform a Chinese ethnic dance, emphasising facial expressions.

Co-creator, choreographer and performer Guo Rui speaks to the audience about his artistic life and experience. – Photos: William Chan

Four artistes perform a puppet dance at T Theatre.

The artistes mimick plants during Saturday’s performance at T Theatre.


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