Dances with dreams

Dances with dreams

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May Tse
Photo: May Tse

A very mixed group of students are getting a rare opportunity to perform in public, writes Rebecca Tsui

Dancing is hard to define. It is an entertainment, a sport; it's a way to communicate myriad emotions. And now a host of students will show Hong Kong how amazing it can be.

Eleven dance groups comprising more than 150 local and overseas choreographers and dancers will take part in the Urban Dance Festival tomorrow, organised by Swire Island East and the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation. The groups have taken inspiration from various locations in Island East to create their own site-specific dances. There will be 66 dance performances throughout the festival.

Sixty of the artists are from Hong Kong secondary schools. They have been honing their skills in dance workshops under the guidance of top choreographers since September.

Choreographer Poon Wai-shun, 24, has compiled a dance for nine students. It was no easy task, the aspiring dancers are of different ages, from different schools, have different dance experience and physical ability - three of them are hearing impaired.

Yet, Poon says, they all have one important thing in common - passion.

'In the first few sessions of the workshop, I gave them some exercises to train their senses to the surroundings. I taught them to feel each other's breaths and movements - rather than relying on counting beats and listening to the music - and then I taught them to move as a group,' he says.

At 14, Joey Ho Chiu-lam is the youngest of the troupe. 'In the beginning, I was a bit worried that I wouldn't fit their style, as they are all older than me,' says Joey, who has been learning ballet for almost 10 years. 'But it's turned out ok.'

Emily Ng Mei-yee, 19, has also been learning ballet since she was four years old. Now she learns contemporary dance at the Association of Performing Arts and is the only one in the group with professional dance training. She says the group's love of dance was the catalyst for their friendship.

'Some of the students may not hear too well, but we have no problem communicating," she adds. "They can read lips and we have learned sign language from them.' The combination of signing and mouthing has led to a few comic moments.

Jason Wong Yiu-pong, 21, has always dreamed of being a dancer. He has been taking modern dance lessons for the past three years. He's deaf and it is almost impossible to dance if you can't hear the music. 'It's a big challenge which I want to overcome,' he says. 'I want to show others I can do this and reach my goal [to be a dancer].'

Poon says: 'Jason's really sensitive to the other dancers' movements, and this helps him dance.'

Poon has named his group's dance 'Indulge'. He wants his audience to rethink their lives and be more aware of their surroundings. He shared his idea with the group and the students helped him put the final dance together.

The group is going to perform six times tomorrow, together with 10 other dance groups. The commercial area in Quarry Bay will be turned to a dance paradise and there will be tours and workshops.

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