A Thinker's Piece
By Kevin Kwong
In this age of advanced communication – with technologies that enable us to send and receive verbal, visual and/or audio messages anywhere, at any time, in any way – we are fast losing touch with one basic medium of expression … body language.
Everyday, we are overloaded with spoken words and written texts, so that the only body parts most of us exercise on a regular basis are the mouth (for talking) and fingers (for typing).
Is the language of dance, which is one of the most ancient and beautiful forms of human communication and expression, on its way to extinction? Does it have any relevance in our lives today? If so, what do people want to see in a dance?
In this latest piece B.O.B.*(Body O Body), dancer and choreographer Dick Wong asks his audience to think about these questions.
“When the spoken and written language is so convenient and when the printed media so developed, do we still need to use our bodies to communicate? If so, how?” Wong asks.
“Another point of this show is to explore the performing body. Is the body different when it is onstage to offstage? What kind of body do the audience want to see? Are dancers delivering what is wanted of them?”
These are just some of the questions and issues that the veteran dancer has been mulling over since 1999, when he started jotting down his thoughts about dance, where it is going, and the role of a dancer.
For instance, is a “strip dance” different from modern dance?” Both reveal the dancer’s body to the audience,” says Wong. “Does the audience want to see your body and not your soul?
“So why dance? Is it just a job or an art of expression? Or is it just a form of vanity?”
Despite, or rather because of, all these probing questions, B.O.B.* is as much a soul searching exercise for Wong and the dancers as it is a piece of dance theatre that challenges the audience’s concepts of this physical art form.
Featuring performing artists from various backgrounds – Frankie Ho, Candy Kuok, Roger Wong, Cedric Chan, Hoi Chiu, Lucia Tong and Lai Tak Wai – this 80-minute performance is at its core a two-way communication between those on and off stage.
“Through their performances, the dancers will convey to the audience feelings that cannot be verbalised and sensations that are beyond words,” explains Wong.
The trickiest part of this show is not only to merge movements and dance into one, but for the dancers to get their “state of mind” across. This way of performing is very truthful. It exposes the artists completely … so they need to be very confident of themselves.
“What they do in the end, comes from themselves, not me,” Wong says. “Each dancer is unique. I provide them with framework that highlights their uniqueness.”
“Of course, how much is being revealed depends on each dancer and it will be interesting to see how much the dancers will want to reveal.”
Wong says what is great about this Arts Festival programme is that it encourages those involved to push their artistic as well as creative limits. With dancers, many (with the very few exception like Merce Cunningham) will retire when they reach their 30s.
They simply can no longer meet the high and intensive level of physicality that this art form demands. But with a creative mind, Wong believes, a dancer can continue to survive for a long time.
He says, ”Dance can be a creative platform … it is a tool for creating. I want the dancers to think more about what they do. And I want the audience to think about what they see.”
A thinker’s piece rather than pure entertainment, B.O.B.* is likely to up more questions than it will answer.
(from the programe brochure of B.O.B.*, Hong Kong Arts Festival 2004)