Dance Theatre Thunderstorm A hushed confrontation
A classic play first published in 1934 by the playwright Cao Yu, Thunderstorm tells the tragedy of a bourgeois family in the feudal China in 1925. It has been an epoch-making piece of work in the 85 years since then where the eggs in the old drama attempt to strike the decaying and stubborn feudal family values. The scene now turns to Hong Kong with the young people still confronts the old tradition and the unfair system. It’s just that the wall of the era has been enlarged and become higher and harder.
That summer was overwhelmed by the same flood of oppressive summer heat. In the midst of recalcitrance, the same line of showers and thunderstorms still roar across the sky……
By Tinny Cheng| Translated by Renee
Young people still confronts the old tradition and the unfair system. It’s just that the wall of the era has been enlarged and become higher and harder.
Double incest, unmarried pregnancy, and challenge to patriarchal authoritarianism. At that time, Thunderstorm represented a radical, avant-garde step with distinctive characteristics of the era. The vague and obscure lines of dialogue flow out like somniloquy. When the black veil of fate is lifted, the world collapses to an immediate, catastrophic end in the twinkling of an eye. Today, the play Thunderstorm turns out to be a non-verbal dance theatre Thunderstorm. Flowing through the stage are the various scenes performed by the 6 dancers while reshaping the complicated world from a blood-and-thunder melodramatic accusation into an unspoken body narrative. Is the contradictory tension “unspeakable”? Or, having freed themselves from the cocoon of language, the emotion and soul could now burst forth unrestrained and sublimate into another dimension of body vocabulary?
Dance is not used to narrate a story. So this time we come up with an experimental demonstration.
The speech without words, the soul in visible shape
The acclaimed dance artists Mui Cheuk-yin and Xing Liang come together with the veteran theatre director Tang Shu-wing in a crossover challenge. Through the hybrid of artistic elements like dance, mime theatre, costumes and set design, the creative trio develop an experimental form of contemporary dance theatre Thunderstorm. It embodies how the integration of cross-media and contemporary dance language tells the “24 hours of the Zhou’s” and the fate in desperation.
“Dance is not used to narrate a story. So this time we come up with an experimental demonstration.” Mui Cheuk-yin says.
Reminiscing the stories behind the creation, Tang Shu-wing focuses specifically on how he extracts the dramatic tensions and intricate literary world from the original play of Thunderstorm to achieve a refinement of narrative and dance styles nested in admirable economy.
“Feeling and imagination are very important. Springing from the inner state of the protagonists, the dancers stylize and abstract the body movement with rich imagination. The interaction between the roles reveals the tension and impact of the characters, including the personality above and beneath the surface.” As emphasized by Tang Shu-wing, the linear leaping and rearrangement of the rhythm of plot have in turn heightened a binary opposition thereof.
Just as the name implies, the dance theatre Thunderstorm is a performance centered on dance. Mui Cheuk-yin highlighted the great inclusivity of contemporary dance, which is a contemporary performance approach naturally cultivated through the journey of self-understanding and precipitation by the dancers. “We depict the relationship of the 6 protagonists respectively in a series of pas de deux, solos, ensemble dancing and more. The body and countenance become the most important form of expression. It is where acting goes in parallel with dancing, drama coexists with the element of dance. The daily unrest occurred recently in Hong Kong may inspire dancers to have a more specific revelation in interpreting contradictions.”
The three large props on the stage, including the round table and several small stools, the sofa and the Chinese cabinet are sets of virtual symbols. Even the dancers’ clothing also hint at the inner struggle of each character. The intensifying effect evoked by music and sound design makes the personality of respective roles all the more vivid.
As Mui Cheuk-yin recalls, it is a challenge for each dancer to emphasize with and understand the scripted protagonist in concrete ways, followed by an in-depth and abstract exploration process deriving from their own experiences. The team fervently hope this traditional classic could serve as a response to contemporary issues. Living in the era of civil recalcitrance in Hong Kong, are there any changes in our imagination of powers and constraints?
In the absence of straightforward dialogue, the resistance of young people against the oppression from the feudal society has ironically come out better outlined in the dance theatre Thunderstorm. Desperate to leave their living cage and venture to a new world, the young protagonists, however, end their lives unjustly in the prison-like luxury house as they fail to figure a way out. "Everything will be fine after today. Things will be over after pulling through the day.” Identical threads of despair are woven through the narrative in Thunderstorm. The truth is that those who are pretending to be asleep run away from the conflict and harmonize the contradiction. It would only end in blasting to the collective debt with everlasting perdition; they’re just impossible to pull through today.
Is destiny something insurmountable? Surmounting our destiny itself is the destiny of mankind.