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Outside Space and Time: A Love Letter to Life Itself

Have you ever imagined that you could go back in time and make better choices? While time travel remains the preserve of science fiction, art can offer just the thrill you need to spark your imagination. A good artist produces creative works that transcend life and death, time and space. Scheduled to take the stage this autumn, Au-delà du Temps by La P en V Innovative Dance Platform offers an opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of life and time through the art of dance.

Text: Pianda
Translation: Perfect Ink Media

Communication beyond words

“Many people are curious about the Chinese name of the show. ‘A Funeral For The Immortal’ actually refers to transcending life itself and passing on the virtue of humanity through eternal beliefs,” says Chong Chan Po, Artistic Director and Choreographer at La P en V Innovative Dance Platform. In 2017, Chong started taking time to reflect on the meaning of life and death as he was struggling to cope with the loss of loved ones. “What if we could transcend time and space, life and death? What would our world be like if we could just reverse time or even travel into the future? For me, creating Au-delà du Temps was the way out,” he adds.

Having had the privilege of watching the performance during the “Meet in Beijing Arts Festival (MIBAF)” last year, I was swept away by the nine seemingly independent dance acts, each depicting a different picture of life. They were all interwoven to bring the audience on an incredible journey of soul-searching and time-travel. “After the show, I was told by a member of the audience that, although it was her first time coming to one of our shows and she found it hard to express how she actually felt, she felt somehow relieved,” says Chong. Much of the beauty of dance lies in its ability to be interpreted in many different ways by each individual, while simultaneously relating to the audience on a personal level without a single word being uttered.

While the heart-wrenching days back in 2017 took a toll on him, Chong was nonetheless impressed by his teenage son, who had suddenly stepped up and matured into a sensible and compassionate young adult. “Not only did he become more decisive, but he also grew into this diligent student who even got himself into university,” says Chong. This kind of beautifully subtle interaction through emotional awareness once again shows that communication is always more than words or only threats.

Chong started taking time to reflect on the meaning of life and death as he was struggling to cope with the loss of loved ones in 2017. (Photo: Cheung Chi Wai)

Performance in Beijing

La P en V Innovative Dance Platform was founded 12 years ago by Chong and his wife Vivian Tam (who was also from the School of Dance at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts) in the hope of creating more performance opportunities for professionally trained dancers. “There are dancers graduating from the HKAPA every year, but the three major dance companies in Hong Kong simply do not have the resources to take in all of them, and many turn to teaching while waiting for chances to perform. We see that many graduates have a strong passion for dancing, and hope they will have more performance opportunities,” he explains.

At the performance in Beijing last year, I was blessed to have had the opportunity to experience the enthusiasm and passion that these dancers shared. After the show, some rushed to the airport because they had to return to work in Hong Kong the next day, while those who stayed couldn’t wait to review their performance. “To ensure lower risk and easier budgeting, visiting performances these days usually do not take on more than two or three performers. While it was certainly not easy to get invited for an out-of-town performance with eight dancers, our previous show in Beijing was really well-received, which gave us a boost in confidence for sure,” says Chong.

“Our previous show in Beijing was really well-received, which gave us a boost in confidence for sure,” says Chong. (Photo: Meet in Beijing Festival)

A platform to showcase Hong Kong dancers

The decision to use up to seven or eight dancers in a performance was, in fact, well justified. As well as enabling an unrestricted creative process, it also gives Hong Kong dancers the kind of exposure they deserve. Since being established, the company has travelled to perform at various events, such as the Wave Rising Series festival in the United States, the International Festival Jazz Dance Open in the Czech Republic and the folk dance festivals in Europe. It has also participated and connected with other troupes on a number of occasions, including at the CINARS Biennale in Canada, the Internationale Tanzmesse in Germany and the Performing Arts Market in Seoul (PAMS). “Hong Kong dancers are by no means inferior. They just need more performance opportunities to improve themselves. This is where the industry and the government should come in. Taiwan and South Korea are great examples,” says Chong.

Au-delà du Temps is a modern masterpiece with rich choreography, vibrant costumes and elaborate stage settings, combining elements from Chinese dance, ballet, folk dance and modern dance. There are nine separate acts, with several sets of costumes to achieve an atmosphere distinctive to that particular scene – all skillfully put together to create an unforgettable experience for the audience. While some scenes are redolent of the aesthetics typical of another famous choreographer, Alvin Ailey, some say the ending recalls the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT). “It just so happens that costumes changing is needed. The NDT is indeed a dance company I admire very much, and they really inspire my work. One of the perks of doing out-of-town performances is that we get to see what others are doing, and by watching the works from other cultures we get to explore various possibilities that might help us in our creative process,” Chong explains.

Au-delà du Temps premiered in 2017. The cast will be different and the designs will be further polished in this year’s rerun. (Photo: Cheung Chi Wai)

Dance, an art form for everyone

For 12 years, La P en V Innovative Dance Platform has been on a different path to its peers. “Dancing is not only for those who have the know-how to appreciate the art form. Some dances are designed to raise questions and require explanation from the choreographer anyway,” says Chong. He adds that the audience’s need to understand the performance is often neglected. “Everyone should be able to enjoy the satisfaction and joy that dance brings. The industry needs to better cater to the needs of different audiences.”

With its reflection of the proposition of life and death, this performance is sure to have an unprecedented impact on audiences amid the pandemic today.▲

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