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Arts of Hong Kong 2020: Solara & Luna by City Contemporary Dance Company (Preview)

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HONG KONG – Rounding off City Contemporary Dance Company’s (CCDC) Digital Dance Season 2020 is a brand new addition to their REAL Showcase Series, which has been providing all-round support for local dance artists to realise their creativity and produce full-length works in a small theatre since 2006.

This time around, the spotlight is on emerging dance artists Kong Wing Yee and Kwok Tsz Ying, who will be presenting their work Solara & Luna. Wing Yee, a Chinese Dance graduate from The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA), and Tsz Ying, a Contemporary Dance graduate of HKAPA with training in street dance and hip hop, could not be more unlike each other.

But that is precisely where Solara & Luna finds its points of interest, as it imagines both dancers trapped in a single room. They represent “Solara” (Latin for sun) and “Luna” (Latin for moon), yin and yang, and polar opposites, distinct in their personalities and as different as day and night. As they clash in terms of style, they also find surprising intersections with each other as they learn to interact and work with each other, attempting to escape from the cycle established by energy flow in the seven Chakras, and perhaps, even change destiny itself.

Kong Wing Yee

On the genesis of the work, Wing Yee comments: “With the pandemic, we felt like we’ve been trapped in the same space for a long time, and wanted to express that through dance. We then decided to incorporate elements of our life into the piece, and began choreographing. However, we didn’t actively seek to use a specific dancing style, but to just let our bodies naturally move and show what we want to express. What we learn has already been internalised.”

“Surprisingly, we never talked much in school because we were doing different courses,” she continues. “But quite by chance, we won a scholarship to France in our final year, and we went to Paris and spent two weeks together, drinking and chatting in the dorm every night. We found we had quite a few things in common, but had a very different way of expressing it. I thought this bond and shared worldview was special, and wanted to collaborate, especially since my style of Chinese dance is very traditional, and hoped a collaboration could bring it to another level. Sometimes it might seem like it’s not exactly a collaboration, since our methods of creation are so…different, but it makes sense to us.”

“In collaborating, we found that always have a lot of things to talk about,” adds Tsz Ying. “Another reason I chose to collaborate with Wing is because I’m not usually a big picture person, and often focus on the details, compared to Wing. When collaborating, it takes a lot of cooperation to express my ideas clearly in her language. And our working style is very different too; sometimes, Wing just sits there and looking in the mirror or writing. And I do not know what to do.” 

Kwok Tsz Ying

In terms of their personal artistry, Wing Yee is interested in continuing her personal exploration of interpersonal distance, both physical and emotional, and how one learns to express one’s self with honesty and freedom. Meanwhile, Tsz Ying seeks the freedom of expression, stemming from her improvisation work in contemporary dance, and to meld that with narrative and emotional flow gained from her background in drama and musical training. Both of those ideas will come together, as they project their memories and emotions in full force into their movements, reflecting not just on the concept of individual fate, but even the hope that this could potentially extend to a national level, where one can overcome the supposedly unchangeable destiny of an entire city.

“Through the work, we do go to some very dark places and emotions,” says Tsz Ying. “As Hong Kongers, we do have a lot of emotion, and feel the need to talk about the current situation. We all know what’s going on in our minds, why we’re angry and who we’re angry at, but have no way out of it. As such, I think the best thing to do is sit down and do nothing but question yourself, where you will find that there are many things that you can start doing. And in our case, we’re artists, not news reporters, so we express our emotions through our work.”

“And I guess for me, now really is the best time to start something new,” she continues. “If you were going to die tomorrow and the world came to an end, what would you like to do? After asking this question, everyone is willing to express themselves more truthfully. In my opinion, we should not talk about political issues unless we can be the most honest versions of ourselves, something we hope to bring out in Solara and Luna.”

While the synopsis does make mention of Chakras, both dancers stress that they never explicitly reference it, rather, considers it something that is expressed more subconsciously. “We really wanted to be able to talk about the situation in Hong Kong in a lighter way,” says Wing Yee. “Along the way, we ended up reading this book related to Chakras and energy, and we also had long discussions about all the things that happened from our younger year. In fact, we spent much of our rehearsals chatting and crying, and realised that we had very similar feelings from the last 20 years of our life. We then used that to inform this show, and the idea of Chakras and energy was more of a flow we were following, although we did meditate if we found our minds were very messy.”

“The funny thing is, after graduation, our understanding of our body would allow us to learn other things more easily such as yoga and meditation, because of how familiar we were with it,” says Tsz Ying. “Learning about Chakras ended up becoming a hobby, and we thought about the idea of cycles, and how when people reach the age of 27 or 30, even the psychological journeys are different, but the moods and the way of seeing issues would be the same. When you compare the us of today to ten years before, it’s almost like meeting completely different people.”

Of course, as with most performances this year, Solara and Luna will be presented digitally, streamed online instead of performed in a live theatre, something that did not affect Tsz Ying or Wing Yee’s presentation much, having filmed a run about a week before they were set to premiere. “From my point of view actually, we might have actually ended up with a better outcome than expected,” says Tsz Ying. “We actually had one camera at first, then we added two more side cameras, but finally we used all the shots taken from the middle one, because we did not design for anyone to watch the show from that side. And by not accepting that viewing angle, it almost seems like something related to our themes in the show. It is most important that we are making the most of the situation, and in the down time between recording the show and now, we’ve had lots of time to think a lot more about what we’re trying to do, especially during the editing process.”

“The biggest loss isn’t in the presentation, but in how audiences won’t have the same feeling of entrapment we create with the work, and that we won’t get to hear their feedback after the show. But perhaps by forcing you to look at a screen, you might still feel a sense of entrapment after all, even if it’s not quite the same,” says Wing Yee. “This feeling of entrapment, it’s something we feel so often whenever we face something we’re not comfortable with. A lot of this has to do with how we think about our souls trapped in our bodies, something like being caught in a shell or a room. And you’ll see in the show how we’ll be trying to ‘release’ ourselves and escape.”

“We may seem like two cheerful girls on the outside, but what we say and think can be very dark,” Wing Yee continues. “And for COVID-19, we definitely don’t think that there would be any problem that would affect what we want to do. And even if there are challenges, we’d still forge ahead and do what we want to do. If CCDC told us that we could not perform, we’d probably find a place by ourselves to hold the performance.”

“It’s more our daily lives that are affected rather than this specific performance, where I’ve lost a few jobs in this period,” says Tsz Ying. “Under this situation, the more important problems to be dealt with are more to do with how to keep myself dancing, continue to practice choreography, and how to not to die or suffer from depression. Many of our living habits have been changed, and it’s a huge shock to the system.”

In thinking a bit further about their respective choreography, Tsz Ying elaborates on their differences as dancers. “I think that some of my improvised parts can be a little more vague, and as I watch the show again, I can not remember which parts are choreography and which parts are improvisation,” she says. “Wing, on the other hand, is much more structured, and fully understands and is aware of her own style, the space, her body and clothing. I think she thinks of and cares more about these things.”

“I think that for me, so much of the show surrounds issues of distance,” says Wing, commenting on her own personal topic of interest in relation to the show. “I have considered what distance I am studying in this show, and think that it’s about the distance between ourselves and our inner heart. Do you think that the distance between the me at this moment and the me just finished the show, is really close? It is not, and there is always a little bit of distance. And therefore, that little bit of distance is interesting for me, I want to discover more about it to see if we can ever close that distance, or find a way to be comfortable with keeping that distance.”

As part of CCDC’s REAL Showcase Series, both dancers are thankful for the opportunity given, particularly in terms of the freedom to create. “Although there was a mentor guiding our creation, there was always freedom of expression,” says Wing Yee. “Before we presented officially, there were many small scale shows, and we brought up a lot of ridiculous ideas, which were not shown finally. They might be shocked and shouted ‘WHAT?!’ in their mind. However, they would still look at our ideas, allow us to continue, and let us do anything we want to try, never restricting us. Even though many places were closed due to the government’s order, and we didn’t have a place for rehearsal, CCDC offered us a place to work and move on. They really helped us a lot, and we are super grateful for it.”

“In a way, it’s like taking another course at university,” she continues. “Not only were we offered the space to create, but also taught how to run a show. There were only two of us at the beginning, later on there is a group of coworkers helping us, in charge of designing the poster, taking video and lighting. If we did not get this chance, we probably will not be able to find these friends for help and won’t know if they are good at these things. It was a good first step for us to learn how to organise our first show. And of course, after this collaboration with Tsz Ying, we think there’s still plenty more for us to explore in future.” 

Speaking about the greatest takeaways from being a part of this project, Wing Yee comments on the degree of self-discovery she’s experienced. “As freelancers, we realise that we like to have full control over the process,” says Wing Yee. “At this point however, while we do enjoy choreographing, we can only do that for ourselves at the moment, and would love to take it further in future to choreograph for others. For now though, we’re happy expressing what we want through our own body.”

“Not to mention, we think that we’ve learnt how much we want to push further, and question why can’t we do this instead,” adds Tsz Ying. “We’re definitely interesting in experimenting and playing more, and this whole experience has really felt like a graduation project for us.”

Ultimately, what Wing Yee and Tsz Ying hope to bring to audiences with Solara & Luna is a presentation of their own feelings, and the hope that audience members find resonance in the performance, and able to relate it to their own lives. “We all have something we want to express, and art is all about expression,” says Wing Yee. “Our work could be more inspirational or touching, and speaking up is definitely something art should do. But I don’t want to be too direct about the final message, as I hope the audience will be able to interpret it for themselves from the show. I do hope however, that they may reflect on themselves, and consider whether they have looked into their selves, and whether they too might have a ‘dark side’ they’ve been suppressing.”

Photo Credit: Leung Wing Chun

REAL Showcase Series – Solara & Luna streams online on 30th October 2020, and is available to watch until 1st November 2020. Tickets are available on Popticket and SISTIC. More information available on CCDC’s website here, and more about CCDC’s Digital Dance Season here

For news and updates, join CCDC’s Telegram Channel CCDC的小日子 ️(@lifeinCCDC)

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