Strip Teaser 2012

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What exactly do fashion and contemporary dance have to do with each other? Winnie Chau finds out in Strip Teaser 2012


Modern dance is old-fashioned. At least, from fashion’s perspective, the monochrome loose-fitting costumes and bare feet are consistently characterless. This revolutionary dance genre, which emerged in the early 20th century to defy classical ballet, is prone to repetition in the 21st century.

Contemporary dance – the more tolerant offspring of modern dance – is not entirely immune either. The frequent skin-baring is increasingly underwhelming. Hence, it seems a wise move for City Contemporary Dance Company to have its dancers dressed to the nines in its latest work, paradoxically titled Strip Teaser 2012. The production has lined up four Hong Kong fashion designers with five choreographers for four dance works (Inside Out, The 3.5th Dimension, Dress Me Down and Fighter), supervised by visual director and fashion co-ordinator anothermountainman.

“Dancers are definitely vain when wearing costumes on stage,” admits Noel Pong, CCDC resident dancer and choreographer for Inside Out. “Though, off-stage, they could be fashion-conscious, laid-back or even shabbily dressed.” To Pong, good costume endows her dancers with confidence. “I’d like them to be so fond of their costumes to the point of looking at themselves in the mirror frequently.”

A tall order. But all this isn’t easy to achieve when the tailor scissors fall into the hands of adventurous designer Kay Wong, co-founder of Daydream Nation. “I intended to hinder dancers’ movements,” says Wong emphatically. Inside Out puts on display the dual facades city-dwellers wear in daily life. Onstage, dancers will busy themselves dressing and undressing reversible jackets and moving in exceedingly oversized outfits. Wong adores contemporary dance for its waywardness. She adds: “This dance is an art piece, so what I’m doing, [mimics a sly laugh] ha ha, is to see if my design would hinder [their movements] and, if so, what the chemistry is like.”

Justyne Li and Wong Tan-ki are going a step too far by setting their work a little beyond the three-dimensional world. In The 3.5th Dimension, time is perceived differently and soon you find actions broken into fragments, where the six dancers take up one of the consecutive moments of a continuous action. The husband-and-wife team’s otherworldly idea is matched by Chen Dao’s futuristic patchwork design.

“Their movements are quite meticulous. A lot of them have to do with shoulders, for instance,” explains Chen. “When the shoulder movements are rather detailed, I can’t have much volume on the shoulders.” While movements come first in their choreography, the couple wouldn’t deny the magic costumes can have on dancers. “I, for example, like to wear slim-cut long-sleeved upper garments. The sleeves must be just long enough to cover my wrists – it allows the arms to appear way longer,” says Li.

“Does it have to be good-looking?” choreographer Bruce Wong questions rhetorically on how dancewear should look. He wants his dancers to be more grounded in Dress Me Down, which manifests the manipulation and violence in the struggle among social classes. “Dancewear gives a different kind of energy to dancers. For instance, prim suits require you to open up your shoulders. In hip-hop, the extra-large outfits, obviously, entail another sort of energy – they make you more grounded and allow you to bound,” says Wong, who has infused some hip-hop in his choreography.

Wong’s partner, street-fashion whizz-kid Kenax Leung, often gets inspired by art installations and postmodern architecture. The deconstruction devotee will give the outfits a facelift with embellishments, such as illuminated cables and Mayan patterns. “I picked some loose-fitting clothes with trimmings and ribbons,” says Leung. “When the dancers move along with the [draping] ribbons, the explosiveness is accentuated.”

Fashion designer Aries Sin passes off as a dancer in the show’s publicity images (though striking poses for the trailer left her aching for two days), whereas choreographer Victor Fung doesn’t see himself as a fashionista. The interesting pair is going to mobilise CCDC’s full company in Fighter, which looks into the various ways protestors make their voice heard. “I am not particularly political but all of a sudden you see [all these political acts] around the world, such as the Occupy Movement. People who are’t normally outspoken in politics step up to express their opinions,” says Fung, who notices that protestors nowadays have transformed demonstrations into performance art.

And such artistic freedom allows Sin to turn the costumes into high fashion. “I discovered there are some predominant design practices for contemporary dance costumes,” she says. “If they aren’t body-hugging to accentuate the bodyline, they’re all in pale colours.” But Sin is determined to break the mould. While showing us her ‘crazy’ design drafts, she suddenly exclaims: “Rebellion! Isn’t it what the dance work is about?”

Strip Teaser 2012 is at Cultural Centre’s Studio Theatre, Fri Sep 7-Sun Sep 9. Tickets: 2734 9009; urbtix.hk.

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