By Emily Chu
Best known for her cinematic work, renowned costume designer Dora Ng redefines the aesthetics of lion dancing in ContempoLion
I loved the idea of reintroducing traditions in a contemporary way, to share them with a new, younger generation and to reinterpret that clash of old and new. This is my first-ever stage costume experience; I hope the audience can appreciate and treasure the tradition of lion dance.
Designing for the show was essentially a deconstruction of the lion head. From its beautiful eyes to its energetic soft whiskers, to its shape and the people hidden in them… each part was inspiring. We worked on the premise of “lion and human as one”. The headpiece, the costume, the dancers – which is which? Perhaps it’s one shared spirit, the spirit of the lion.
Dance is abstract, and stage shows are fluid. Costumes serve the dance and become a part of the story. We needed to find a way to connect the entire story while the wardrobe worked cohesively with the dance, sound, set – and Daniel’s vision. It was hard to communicate exactly what I wanted – so I worked directly on the sewing machine myself, something I haven’t done in over 10 years.
The Colours & Materials
We started with original lion dance colours – red, yellow, black, white – and gold, for tradition’s sake. Each shade was carefully selected, as was each material. Would the texture of the fabric attract or deflect light? Will it accentuate the dancers’ silhouettes, accommodate their movements and give them the confidence to perform at their best? Each detail was scrutinised until the end.
The lion is strong, ferocious, but we wanted to show its softer side. Using non-traditional materials, soft and transparent, and even plastic, allowed for this. Going from strong traditional colours to clear and transparent materials; it’s like you “see through” something, the old revealing the new.
The Role of Costumes
Costumes guide the audience through the show. The order of the costumes, even the order of the male and female dancers, is very important. It’s a continuation of the story that’s being told through costumes. You can’t change things mid-show. We pushed the boundaries of our imagination to achieve a spectacular result.
Photo: Mike Pickles