Main­land mo­tion

Up­com­ing pro­duc­tion seeks to ex­pose the var­i­ous Chi­nese dance forms to a wider au­di­ence.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ARTS - By LIM CHIA YING star2@thes­

When dancer-chore­og­ra­pher Jack Kek stud­ied Chi­nese dance at the hong Kong Academy for Per­form­ing Arts, he was ex­posed to the var­i­ous styles that de­fined and con­sti­tuted the dance form. It opened up his world to more than just the stan­dard hand­ker­chief or fan dance that most Malaysians would come to as­so­ciate Chi­nese dance with.

For five years, he stud­ied the in­tri­ca­cies, ori­gins and back­grounds of some of these dances. Kek warmed up to the likes of clas­si­cal dance (with move­ments de­rived from a com­bi­na­tion of mar­tial arts and Chi­nese opera) and tribal dance be­fore grad­u­at­ing and later es­tab­lish­ing him­self as a prin­ci­pal dancer with a renowned dance or­gan­i­sa­tion in Tai­wan, the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre.

Upon his re­turn to Malaysia, Kek wanted to con­trib­ute to the Chi­nese dance scene here and ex­pose the var­i­ous dance forms.

“You’ll find that the han group, which makes up China’s main eth­nic pop­u­la­tion, would usu­ally per­form the fan, rib­bon or hand­ker­chief (dance), while dif­fer­ent folk groups would have their own dances too,” said the 37-year-old Kek at his dance stu­dio in Kuala Lumpur re­cently.

“It is my hope to in­tro­duce these di­verse styles to as many people. Some of these dances are rarely per­formed in Malaysia,” he added.

Kek drew up the pro­pos­als and came up with the Chi­nese dance pro­duc­tion ti­tled Col­lect­ing Wind And Cloud, fea­tur­ing 10 dif­fer­ent dance pieces. It will be staged at the Thean hou Tem­ple in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 28.

With Kek as the artis­tic di­rec­tor, the up­com­ing pro­duc­tion is pre­sented by the Qi Dancers Chi­nese Dance Troupe.

It is co-chore­ographed with the help of guest chore­og­ra­pher Chris Lam Wai Yan from hong Kong, who was Kek’s course mate at the same academy (hong Kong Academy for Per­form­ing Arts).

The pro­duc­tion, ex­plains Kek, will be very much a demon­stra­tion-type per­for­mance in which the ex­pres­sions, move­ments and ges­tures of dif­fer­ent dances will be ex­plained to the au­di­ence.

“It’ll be an ex­cit­ing evening of dance when dif­fer­ent cul­tures from dif­fer­ent places are pieced to­gether un­der a com­mon theme. I feel there’s a lot cul­tur­ally and even aes­thet­i­cally for the au­di­ence to ab­sorb,” said Kek.

“Some people may won­der why are we do­ing some of these tra­di­tional dances and if a main­land Chi­nese type of dance is suit­able or rel­e­vant to a Malaysian Chi­nese au­di­ence. But I think dances and arts are a lot about ap­pre­ci­a­tion and en­joy­ment, even more so as we have be­come in­creas­ingly con­nected.”

Kek says the pro­duc­tion lasts for 90 min­utes. Some of the Chi­nese dance cat­e­gories in­cluded are the Sword dance, Xin­jiang Bowl dance, Thou­sand hand Bod­hisattva, Mon­go­lian dance, Korean Drum dance as well as the Long Sleeve dance which is his spe­cialty.

ex­plain­ing fur­ther on the Long Sleeve dance, Kek says it is based on the Chi­nese clas­si­cal work called Dream Of The Red Cham­ber, fea­tur­ing 12 blos­som­ing beau­ties as por­trayed in the novel (among its size­able num­ber of char­ac­ters).

how­ever, the per­for­mance is only a 15-minute ver­sion of the novel as Kek reck­ons that the con­tent is too lengthy and com­pre­hen­sive.

Mean­while, Lam who was also present in this in­ter­view, says she chore­ographed the Korean Drum dance, the Mon­go­lian dance and Chi­nese fan dance. Ac­cord­ing to Kek, fly­ing Lam down to pre­pare for this show was a col­lab­o­ra­tion he had wanted to re­alise for a long time.

“Both of us have known each other for over 12 years. I’m grate­ful for the col­lab­o­ra­tions we had in the past and we have this nat­u­ral chem­istry work­ing to­gether,” he said.

Lam says the em­bed­ded char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Korean dance very much re­flects her own per­son­al­ity. It is a calm and gen­tle piece with­out any ex­ag­ger­ated ex­pres­sions.

“The dance it­self re­quires prac­tice by (us­ing) breath train­ing, which is a lit­tle like tai chi. But I didn’t make it too tra­di­tional or it will be too slow, which the au­di­ence would find hard to ac­cept. how­ever, I still tried to keep it as au­then­tic as pos­si­ble, save for the mu­sic that is tweaked to a faster beat,” said Lam, 38. The Mon­go­lian dance is a big con­trast from the Korean Drum dance, she says. It cap­tures the loud and brash na­ture of no­madic Mon­go­lians.

Through her chore­og­ra­phy, even the act of milk­ing cows has been adopted in the Mon­go­lian dance.

Lam, who started dancing at the age of six, en­rolled in for­mal dance lessons 10 years ago.

“Ini­tially I liked tra­di­tional dance, but af­ter at­tain­ing a cer­tain level, it prompted the ques­tion of how much more I could achieve. Of course, I’m still a tra­di­tion­al­ist at heart. I’m wor­ried as to whether tra­di­tion can still be pre­served among the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of dancers,” she said.

Kek re­veals that there was an ear­lier ver­sion of the pro­duc­tion back in 2004, but there wasn’t much va­ri­ety at that time and it had per­for­mance at the Thean Hou Tem­ple in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 28. fea­tured mostly his own solo per­for­mance. he won’t be per­form­ing this time and leaves it in the good hands of some 25 dancers from the Qi Dancers Chi­nese Dance Troupe.

“We have spent nearly RM80,000 for ex­penses like props, cos­tumes, light­ing, mu­si­cal in­stru­ments where some had to be brought in from China,” said Kek.

The pro­duc­tion is partly sup­ported by My Per­form­ing Arts Agency and na­tional Depart­ment for Cul­ture and Arts un­der The Royal Arts Gala Fund which fa­cil­i­tates col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween Malaysian and in­ter­na­tional arts prac­ti­tion­ers.

Col­lect­ing Wind and Cloud will be staged at Thean Hou Tem­ple, Per­siaran En­dah, off Jalan Syed Putra in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 28 at 8.30pm. Tick­ets are priced at RM50 (VIP) and RM20. For en­quiries, call 03-62423440 / 017-2859981 or email: mag­icbe­an­

Fan the pas­sion: Jack Kek (left) to­gether with his guest chore­og­ra­pher Chris Lam Wai yan (from Hong Kong) dressed in their re­spec­tive dance cos­tumes that rep­re­sent the dif­fer­ent dance forms to be per­formed at Col­lect­ing Win­dandCloud

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