The Buying Game

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Cultural Centre, Studio Theatre Fri Apr 26-Sun Apr 28

For her new full-length work for the City Contemporary Dance Company, Noel Pong is falling back on a topic that’s closest to her heart. “I fell in love with shopping the moment I learned to make a living,” says the dancer-turned-choreographer, laughing. “The topics of my choreographic works usually have their roots in my daily life. What distinguishes The Buying Game from my previous works is the fact that it’s the first time I’m drawing from my first-hand experience. The themes on contemporary living that I tackled with my previous works were actually not too familiar to me – I’ve never worked in an office before (Rainy Days and Mondays…), and I’m not especially keen to watch movies in the cinemas (Off Screen) – but this time, when it comes to shopping, it’s totally about me.”

A modern dance graduate from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and a resident dancer of CCDC since 1997, Pong has been gradually emerging as one of the company’s main choreographers. After staging double bills with fellow dancer-choreographer Dominic Wong (2009’s What’s Next? Crime Scene! and 2010’s Happily N’ever After), she created her first full-length work, Off Screen, in 2011, before taking part in the fashion-inspired Strip Teaser 2012 with the short piece Inside Out. For the upcoming The Buying Game, the choreographer who’s known for her melancholic take on urban life is determined to have a breakthrough in both style and content.

“I’m demanding myself to conceptualise the work with a drastically different approach from my previous practice. I hope to give myself a challenge,” says Pong. “The first images that came to my mind for the piece were of shoppers fighting for items at a big sale and of a woman trying out a floor of shoes. These are what I would normally put into my works, although I’m keeping them away this time. I’m no longer satisfied with these humorous snippets from daily life. So what you’ll see is a non-narrative, very abstract and movement-based piece. I won’t be including any humorous or funny sequences, and I’ll also refrain from using mainstream or melodic music in the soundtrack.”

To maximise its impact to shake the audience, Pong, together with set designer Yuen Hon-wai, scatters ‘an extremely large quality’ of consumer items around the stage. The idea came to Pong last November and she’s been collecting items from friends, relatives, colleagues and even her dancers ever since. “Since I announced I wanted to collect objects for the production, there have been friends who stepped forward and brought me several bags of clothes,” says the confessed shopaholic, who is going to contribute her fair share of clothes to the dance spectacle too. “It’s funny that they were never really willing to throw away those clothes or even donate them to charity, but when I told them I have a show to stage, they didn’t think twice before giving all the old clothes to me. To many of them, this seems to be the only way to get rid of their clothes without feeling that they’ve been wasted.”

With a change in her artistic approach and a mountain of products to decorate her latest work, Pong is hoping to turn The Buying Game into a refreshing experience for everyone. “I hope my audience, after watching the show, will say that this is vastly different from what I’ve done before,” she says. “Indeed, I’d rather they say that than tell me ‘the work is nice to watch’.”

Edmund Lee

Tickets: 2734 9009; urbtix.hk.

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