Hong Kong's young choreographers can't stop moving

Hong Kong's young choreographers can't stop moving

Aggressive and progressive, here are 5 of the city's hotshot choreographers from contemporary dance and ballet
hong kong dance choreographer
See new wave choreographer Noel Pong's humorous work "Off Screen" at the Cultural Centre on April 22-24.

Emerging Hong Kong choreographers worry less about their future than about how they are moving here and now.

“It’s easy to become lazy as a choreographer in Hong Kong," says veteran dancer-choreographer Yuri Ng. He believes that the city's young choreographers need to step up their game.

"It is possible to maintain a living as a choreographer here, but we can't merely think of survival."

Ng choreographed his first work at 18 when he was a dancer with the National Ballet of Canada. He is now mentoring young dancers and choreographers in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou. His advice? "Don’t be afraid to take risks."

"Creative works can be done without money when you find mutual trust and the right attitude,” he says.

At least five fledgling choreographers in Hong Kong agree with him:

Noel Pong: Humorous narrator


Interview with Noel Pong about her upcoming work "Off Screen."


Originally a resident dancer at the City Contemporary Dance Company, Noel Pong has been struggling to get comfortable in her new role as choreographer.

She “tried to be very nice” with her dancers, but her good intentions resulted in a disappointing performance. Now she makes sure her opinion is heard by declaring "I’m the choreographer!” right from the start.

Her upcoming show "Off Screen" transforms the stage into cinema seats where the dancers play out their drama "off screen." Pong takes a slighty literal and humorous approach to her choreography, hoping to strike a chord with lay audiences.

“My parents are grassroots people," says Pong. "If they can enjoy my work, that means even ordinary individuals will come into the theater to see contemporary dance and are willing to come again."

Pong choreographs according to a dancer's personality. While giving each performer some freedom to devise movements, she has a strong opinion on details such as timing of a pause, facial and eye expressions, the brightness of a smile.

hong kong dance choreographerNoel Pong“I’m bothered by things that are not detailed -- in dancers’ jargon it is not ‘clean’ enough,” says Pong.

Her meticulousness pays off. Early work "Rainy Days and Mondays…" was praised by renowned Taiwanese choreographer Lin Hwai-min.

Noel Pong's signature: “I’m known for my rapid legwork and footwork.”

Noel Pong’s first full-length show "Off Screen" will be at Cultural Centre Studio Theatre on April 22-24. See details at www.ccdc.com.hk.

Max Lee: Philosophical dreamer

A showcase of choreographer Max Lee's work.


Max Lee’s childhood dream was to become an astronaut. But he was never much of a scientist and he became a dancer.

His fascination with going beyond our earthly existence remains in his dance. Lee co-choreographed "Keep in Touch" (2010) inspired by the idea of a parallel universe, and his upcoming work "Room 9" delves into the relationship of time and space.

Yet what challenges the freelance dancer-choreographer most is practical reality. Like his peers, he can't escape the fate of losing money on virtually every dance show he has staged.

hong kong dance choreographerMax Lee“The ones that managed to break even means the whole team is underpaid,” says Lee.

When he is broke, the choreographer steals rehearsal space from his alma mater, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, in quiet carpeted corners. Teachers who walk past usually consent to his "theft” with a knowing smile.

Max Lee's signature: “I always tell my dancers: as long as the emotional condition is right, however you move, you are moving the right way.”

Max Lee’s forthcoming "Room 9" is showing at Kwai Tsing Black Box Theatre on June 3-5.

Wong Tan-ki and Justyne Li: The Perfect Pas de Deux


Wong Tan-ki and Justyne Li in "Galatea and Pygmalion."


Founders of NeoDance, husband and wife Wong Tan-ki and Justyne Li choreograph works together. Their most recognised work is "Galatea and Pygmalion", which was short-listed in this year’s Hong Kong Dance Awards.

Inspired by Greek myth, the dance is a love story between the sculptor and the sculpture.

What is it like to choreograph a piece as a couple? “We fight!” says Li, before Wong has a chance to speak.

“Actually, we’re quite different in terms of what we’re good at," says Wong. "If we unite our efforts, the outcome is richer.

Wong Tan-ki's signature: “My inspirations are half fantasy and half impressions from everyday life and I prefer movements that are fun and fresh.”

Justyne Li's signature: “My style is the combination of ballet and modern dance techniques, movements reflecting the theme and what I think is fun during the creative process.”

The couple will perform at the International Arts Carnival 2011 www.hkiac.gov.hk.

hong kong dance choreographerJustyne Li (left) and Wong Tan-ki.

Yuh Egami: The Multi-cultural Adventurer


Yuh Egami was associate choreographer for "Firecracker" (2010), a Hong Kong-ified version of "The Nutcracker."


Yuh Egami didn’t even know where Hong Kong was when he got a job offer from former Hong Kong Ballet artistic director Stephen Jefferies during his visit to the Royal Ballet School in Britain.

The native Japanese joined the Hong Kong Ballet in 2002, but his first choreographed work dates back to his teens in Okinawa: “I was 15 and I don't remember much about this piece, but yes, I was dancing at the center surrounded by the girls.”

Having worked with dancers and choreographers from all over the world, Egami doesn’t think there is a major difference among them.

“We all share the same language as humans: body, mind, technique, discipline and heart. Professional dancers are all trained in those aspects and same as all the dancers in Hong Kong Ballet,” says Egami.

Yuri Ng, whom Egami collaborated with in full-length dance "Firecracker," noticed his unique way of thinking and his artistic insistence in story-telling.

“I am still a beginner as a choreographer,” adds Egami, “For me right now, the important thing is to be honest with myself and take every chance, no matter how unideal the condition is.”

hong kong dance choreographerYuh EgamiYuh Egami's signature: “My pieces always revolve around the metaphor of time.”

Yuh Egami is one of the choreographers in Hong Kong Ballet’s "Inspired by the 5 Elements" showing at Cultural Centre Studio Theatre May 15-17.

Yuh Egami will also appear in “Dance for Japan - Fundraising Performance for Japan Earthquake” on 5 April 7:30-9 p.m. at Y-Theatre Youth Square, 238 Chai Wan Road, Chai Wan. See Facebook event page for details.