Dancing with Time
All alone, an hour, a long wooden beam.
On an otherwise bare stage, he dances alone with nobody but time,
The wooden beam appears to be so vivid yet so abstract under LAI’s most forward reflection on the concept of time.
Awarded the “Outstanding Choreography” of Hong Kong Dance Awards in 2018, So Low is probably the signature piece of the independent choreographer LAI Tak-wai. Now on its 4th run, LAI asserted, “I want to bring it back to the stage when I’m still fit. Neither the body nor time waits.”
What follows is a battle between body and time – isn’t it the proposition of the dance piece?
Premiered in 2017 in Hong Kong, the idea of So Low loomed in the back of his head since 2013 when LAI Tak-wai choreographed a short piece, Timeline, for the City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC). “The initial inspiration came from the giant yellow duck parking at the waterfront of Tsim Sha Tsui. What astounded me was not the loveliness of that installation, but the glaring contradiction which existed between its enormousness and our tininess. The chemistry between the two was so strong which created such an intriguing composition so vivid that I can still recall. Subsequently, I joined CCDC to tour for a month through Germany. That was about January and February when the frosty of winter rolled around. By coincidence I saw, in the sheer bleakness of the snowy field, a tree stood in solitude. The scene was just breathtaking.” Embedded in his mind was the contrast of big and small, the differences of space and distance. Then the day came when LAI read a paragraph, “All emotions are bound by time, like waiting, longing.” It was where he derived from time and emotion for the creation of his work, Timeline.
While Timeline is a dance piece LAI choreographed for five dancers, So Low is choreographed and performed all by himself. Commissioned by the LCSD in 2016, he decided to go for a one-hour solo. “I think it’s kind of a cool gimmick!”
Human is the best witness of time. Our bodies change, our emotions flow. Time exists in our bodies
The title So Low implies a pun on “solo” and a sense of the inferiority of man in front of time. “The first half of the work is about the abstract concept of time. I push the wooden beam. It pushes back, then I chase after it. The beam represents time of which I walk on. A video is added in the second half, but I still stay on the stage, interacting with the video. Gradually I retrieve to myself. What does time mean for me?
New Inspiration from the Restaging
Since its premiere in 2017, the work was restaged at the City Contemporary Dance Festival in November of the same year, followed by internationale tanzmesse nrw held at Düsseldorf of Germany in 2018. Now on its 4th run, LAI had once thought of inviting other dancer to perform, “However, people around tell me this work is all about the solitariness within, where the dancer and choreographer have to become one. To be honest, this work requires considerable strength. I can’t keep on dancing this way. Having said that, it is my honour to have the privilege to restage it, as is the case with any dance piece –– it takes time to refine. In addition, the different reaction of audience and the variation of venues where the restaging encounters with will bring new inspiration, leading the work to greater sophistication.”
“Where to go next?” is the question LAI leaves at the end of the dance. So Low is undoubtedly an important milestone of his dancing career. Moving forward, how far can his body be pushed? Will his dance rise to another peak?