Okay another back entry….. Nevertheless an interesting one.
On 14 March, as part of the HK Arts Festival, I went to a dance performance called Ode to Joy L.I.V.E. Orpheus and Eurydice staged by a Canadian-based dance group called Compagnie Marie Chouinard.
If you ever get the chance to watch any one of their choreographed dance performances, buy a cheap ticket and have an opened mind about what you’re about to experience.
Well, I got the cheapest ticket, but not by choice as almost all the tickets were sold out except for the first and second highest prices. I reckoned since it was more of a dance performance, a balcony seat could actually turn out to be a good bird’s eye view. And it was.
Except, well how can I put it in a truthful manner without being too critical of someone else’s art? The show was such a radical modern interpretation of what they termed “a dance performance that questions the birth of language”, it was quite hard to “swallow”.
Sounds interesting right? So I thought. How can one actually show this physically?
This info is taken from their promotional brochure.
Orpheus is the original poet. The Greek myth explores such notions as creation, loss, conscience and eternity.
A dance performance
that asks questions about the birth of language
The powers of language
Language and the scream and their links to the body
the links between language and death and how the body arises in part from its tongue
with moments of blinding illumination on the present/ past
(different times that clash), but always justly so, as a matter of course)
concrete images, as if lived in the present,
from a kind of primitive imagination,
A plunge into our human origins,
into the forces beneath language,
with tension, emotion
and very real evidence broken by flashes of humour.
By now you’re like cool! Wished I could see this. Okay first of all, I have to tell you that after the show while I was waiting for a cab to go home, some people behind me in the line started to ask one another what they thought of the performance. The one definite response was, “I hated it and it was too long!”
Yes I felt it was rather long at some parts as well, but this was not the main point. The show was actually SO good at being quite bad. Or maybe another way to put it is that it was so different, even if it’s bad, you just want to know how it ends, like with a bad movie.
Unfortunately, not many locals stayed throughout the performance, I’ll explain why in a moment. Even foreigners walked out in the middle of it or during the interval. I doubt anyone really stayed back for the question-and-answer session too.
Why was it SO bad? Well, actually it was so good in being so bad that it was good to experience it. If you know what I mean ahhahhhahaa....
The stage was pure white, very minimalist, and whatever stage props they used from time to time, I thought it was chosen with tastefulness.
The show began with the sounding of a Swiss horn, held by a male dancer who blew on it, and a female dancer on the other end who helped hold the extremely long instrument. It took me quite a few minutes before I realised this, but she was half-naked. Yes! Just a golden coloured sticker on both her nipples. At first I thought she was wearing a nude coloured tube top, but no….. nothing at all. For her bottom, it was a loose fitted navy blue cargo pants.
As many of the other dancers came on stage, the show started with a lot of screaming! Tonnes of it!
Screaming from one person, from the entire group, with the music, or with the fast erratic dance movements….. and after a hard week, it was actually very stress-relieving to witness that. I guess from how I was feeling that Friday, I could have easily joined them in voice and spirit.
At this point, I was beginning to get very curious, but it was too dark to read the program brochure. I thought to myself, “how could they get this nudity act cleared even in a country like Hong Kong”??
Remember Samantha’s sexy blond boyfriend from Sex in the City, who went full monty in his theatre scene…….. and his performance started getting audiences travelling all the way to Brooklyn? Well, this was quite the opposite. As more time passed, I think some people kind of got a little more settled to not have their eyes focused on the breasts of the half-naked women bouncing around. But for many others, the explicit sexually charged dance movements and sexual positions proved too much to comprehend. And for other really unusual costume choices on the men, they wore SUPER and I do mean SUPER platform high heels with skin-tight black shorts. The men of course all had perfect well-toned bodies, but the heels made them have hot legs too! I don’t think most women would have been able to even walk in those heels, let alone dance in them. But they created a very unusual visual sensation that’s truly hard to describe.
I have to say, some of the choreography with fast beat music was very exhilarating! From afar, I really enjoyed a few scenes that were really well choreographed. The timing was quite perfect with each of the 10 dancers. But after the interval, which gave me some time to read the backgrounds of the dancers and the woman who founded the dance group, almost half the audience seated at the balcony where I was, didn’t come back!
However in justice to the show, I thought the music was superb, it was very unusual and somehow as bizarre as the modern dance movements were, it was a good fit.
So the music started again, and the people who stayed on, I suppose either were just curious to see how it ends, got used to the nudity, or just naughty men. I was still not so comfortable with the nudity because I just couldn’t see the point in it, and even for me it’s very distracting….. but I always watch everything to the end.
Second half, three dancers came out, one of them female. They had a change of costumes and now she is wearing even less, but a golden bikini bottom, furry white leggings and a “snake-like” prop in her mouth. I think this was to represent and mimic movements of the tongue. This was even more errotic than the first costume!!! In the first half of the show, the naked women didn’t really go too close to the edge of the stage, towards the audiences, but now this female dancer actually jumped into the audience and crossed a few rows center front to the back by walking on arm rests in-between occupied seats!!!
I think at this point, the audience (close to her), didn’t really know whether or not to look at her/ the show anymore. It was very bizarre and caused quite a stir.
I’m not sure what the nudity brought to the overall meaning of the performance, but all the dancers have at least 10 years of experience in the field, having performed from circuses to dance theatres around the world. Perhaps the nudity was their way of breaking free from the human form and its restrictions.
So anyway, if I had another chance to attend the troupe’s other dance choreographies, I would go again just for the shock factor. I’m sure to be surprised! I think it was very brave the Hong Kong arts organization didn’t censor the show and I appreciated that very much.