Temp. Solution

On the Watershed, Looking Back—The Combing of the Characteristics and Achievement of Hong Kong Dance Prior to Its Professionalisation

Joanna Lee Hoi-yin


The time frame covered in the “Research Project—Oral History of Hong Kong Dance Development” stretches from the 1950s to right before the professionalisation of dance in Hong Kong. Among the ten interviewees visited, who were active in the local dance field at certain points in time from the 1950s to 1980s, more than one person stated that “dance did not exist in Hong Kong” before the 1950s. I am curious about that statement. Given that dance is a means of expression utilising the body, “dance” must have been in existence as far back as the human need for expression arose. It would have taken tremendous effort to ensure the absolute non-existence of dance. Can it possibly be the case that those who made that statement deny, from the perspective of how dance is imagined today, the presence of dance before they became practitioners? After the establishment of professional dance companies and The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in the 1980s, the way dance had been practised in the 1950s and 1960s gradually moved off the centre and towards the margin. At this stage, the Hong Kong dance circle in general accepts professionalisation as the monumental turn in dance development in our city. By professionalisation, I am referring to the establishment of three professional companies between 1979 and 1984 (the Hong Kong Ballet, the Hong Kong Dance Company, and the City Contemporary Dance Company), as well as The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. However, there has been rather limited analysis of the impact the pre-professionalisation dance ecology had on the post-professionalisation one. “Watershed” is a symbolic image of the professionalisation of dance, and my research interest is whether there has been an organic flow from one side of the watershed to the other, an investigation I undertake by looking into the venues of dance practice, societal background and identity-building, objectification of the body, and intentional and formal considerations.

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