Monday, December 3, 2007


Posted by Tom Pearson
[Originally published on]

Zach experimenting with movement on site
on Tong Chong Street while Tom directs

Zach and I have been in Hong Kong now for one week, and the performers are due to arrive at the hotel any minute now. I think we are both relieved to have them here with us. It's been difficult to fully imagine the work or set any major segments without them; although, we have been able generate some new material based on our reactions to the space and set a few solo moments on site. Being in Hong Kong, in Quarry Bay, specifically, has been a pretty smooth transition for us. By going to work immediately, grounding ourselves in the familiar routines of rehearsal and art making, it feels as though our experience is more natural, more in tune with the city's pulse. We've been able to meet with other artists, make new friends, and get glimpses of Hong Kong as they live it. And, over the course of the past few days we have given ourselves some time off whenever possible to do a little touring as well, to step away from our work and get some perspectives on the larger Hong Kong.


Some of our excursions in Hong Kong

Our primary focus and the reason for our early arrival was to teach workshops focused on our methods for generating movement and creating site-specific works. We taught approximately 60 students in the two classes on Tuesday and Friday. The first group came from various backgrounds, personally and artistically - and we found that they had some preparation for the course in that they were prepared for anything. The second group was mostly students from the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, and it seemed that they shared a more common movement vocabulary. In both groups there was varying comfort levels with regards to the exercises we shared with them, but the risk takers were present in both, and students were able to learn from each other as well as from us.

Teaching these workshops in a studio setting presented its own challenges, but fortunately, the room was filled with furniture, props, doors, and corridors. We treated it as our site, and students were able to make interesting choices, finding the natural frames in the existing architecture... creating dialogues with light sockets... or battering into locked doors, even exploring the open spaces between the structures.

Our format seemed successful as well. It took a while for them to warm up to what we were doing, but by the end of the class, they could see the potential in what they were creating and project what the next steps might be. We began with a brief introduction on what site work means to us: speaking of architecture, topography, history, and cultural considerations. Following this, we led a brief warm up and began moving through the site, making observations as we went: noticing the major structures, the most emphatic elements, the obvious, the hidden, etc. Then we began to interact with the site, moving between where we felt most comfortable and where we were most interested - learning how to amplify these spaces, be large or small within them, etc. From there we pulled images and movements from our explorations to create phrases culled from the site, and then applied these back onto the architecture of the space. We finished by exploring ways in which to focus audiences, either by placement (of performers and/or audiences), the dynamics of the movement, when and where to utilize unison, speed... speaking of geographical and spatial unities-considerations of paramount importance when removing dance from the theater and relinquishing the control of a proscenium, lights, and a stationary audience.

Lamposts and Gathering areas on Tong Chong Street

Now, after teaching all of these techniques, we decided to put our money where our mouth is, take a step back and start our process anew, to take a look at Tong Chong Street as if we'd never seen it before, break out our notebooks, and make some observations of our own... What we noticed was that it was ever-changing. The symphony orchestra builds an entire stage, complete with a full light plot and sound system, every Tuesday. They have a performance in the evening, and then it is gone. We encountered Bailey's Day. Billboards went up, the liquor and partygoers came out, and by 11pm, it all vanished. Part of this is testament to SWIRE, a company continually animating their spaces with art and events, but we can't help but feel that this notion of coming and going somehow represents something much deeper in Hong Kong's DNA.

The details of the site are quite beautiful. The open space of the street has its own topographical appeal in relation to the structures on either side: the glossy, clean lines of the corporate towers on one and the stucco roughness of the apartment buildings and restaurants on the other. The street itself is both a divide and a bridge, like a red brick river that I keep wanting to run to the middle of and dance as largely as I can. In reaction to this lovely dichotomy, much of our movement has developed to hold dual conversations in the space, with sharp, clean and precise gestures focused on the tower facades and organic, curving, clustered movement in relation to the gathering spaces.

The Towers and Facades of some of SWIRE's
newer buildings on Tong Chong Street

In terms of what we've been able to accomplish without our group, two solo moments have developed. Mine honors my impulse to run to the middle of the street and explode, but this still needs the others to make it work, with corresponding counterpoint from the restaurant seating area. Zach's solo, on the other hand, we were able to explore a little more in-depth. With movement generated in New York and in the studio here in Hong Kong, and informed by our observations of the site, we worked to adapt this sequence to the frame of the lampposts, which repeat along Tong Chong Street.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tom Pearson said:
More comments on the video footage here:

new styles
Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Amanda Abrams on December 4, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

i love this guy’s movement style. it’s very different from what i generally gravitate to, but wonderfully precise and angular and yet fluid in its own way. (this video comes actually from the third rail projects, a dance company that has a blog on great dance.)

new idea: i’m going to spend some time looking at dance on you tube before my next rehearsal or low-key outdoor performance. why not take advantage of what’s out there, all the dance and various styles, and use it to expand what i can do?


he has a great sense of architecture. This piece also looks like a score we did at Wild Meadows called “one and one and one.” The score is to do one movement, then a different movement, then a different movement, etc. and never repeat.

Comment by silver — December 4, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

It’s interesting how effectively he uses the narrow space he has set for himself.

I could spend hours looking at dance on youtube. Sometimes it’s hard to find the good stuff, but it’s worth it when you find something that inspires you. What a wonderful tool for dance blogging too– you can just put in a video to illustrate a point.

Comment by Maria — December 5, 2007 @ 10:11 am

Added: December 10, 2007 1:08 PM | Permalink

Gretchen Skovron said:
The space looks amazing. Love the video! I"m so excited to see the real thing.
Have fun!

Added: December 5, 2007 9:07 AM | Permalink

Tom Pearson said:

We miss you too and wish you were here with us. Can't wait to share more stories, vids and pics with you when we get back. Thanks for keeping Third Rail stuff under control while we're away.


Added: December 4, 2007 1:33 AM | Permalink

Tom Pearson said:
I know, Abby. I wish we could've met up here in HK, but thanks for connecting us with Allen Lam. We had a great breakfast with him on Sunday. I was hoping we could catch his show this weekend, but it is at the same time as our performances:(

Please let us know when you are in New York again. -Tom

Added: December 4, 2007 1:32 AM | Permalink

Abby Chan said:
Great that you are having fun in HK!!!
Too bad I am not there now and would have love to join you all if I could. Good Luck and enjoy your staying in HK!

Added: December 3, 2007 2:05 PM | Permalink

Jennine said:
I love the video segment- I'm enjoying the tour from afar.
Miss you all.
Added: December 3, 2007 10:26 AM | Permalink

Skov said:
It's been a long time since I've seen you dance, Z. Apparently too long. You have come such a long way, my friend. I am astonished. Amazed. Inspired. And strangely proud.

Added: December 3, 2007 9:14 AM | Permalink