What’s on a dance choreographer’s wish list? A world tour? An award-winning production? Industry accolades? Actually, for many dancers, the answer lies much closer to home – adequate rehearsal space.
Hong Kong is known for its limited space. When it comes to the performing arts, options are limited, something Dominic Wong, choreographer at City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC) is well aware of.
“Generally speaking, Hong Kong has a lack of proper rehearsal rooms for practice,” Wong says. “Spaces are often small with low ceilings and not reflective of the size of the actual stage. They are also in short supply.”
This dilemma recently led CCDC to ArtisTree. In early July, they held open rehearsals at Taikoo Place’s performing arts venue to practice for their show, The Little Prince, staged at Sha Tin Town Hall in August. With 14 professional dancers, 22 child dancers and a live music ensemble, the production was in urgent need of adequate rehearsal space. The multi-dimensional show – which features animation, dance, literature and live sand painting by artist Hoi Chiu – tells the much-loved tale of a strange little boy who is discovered in the desert by a pilot.
CCDC, which was founded in 1979, is one of the city’s most reputable dance companies. Constantly innovating, the company strives to reimagine the concept of dance, often breaking boundaries through multi-medium shows and intricately choreographed performances. The Little Prince is no exception and required a versatile space to rehearse.
“Even though we have our own dance studio in Wong Tai Sin, it couldn’t accommodate rehearsals for such a large-scale production,” Wong explains. “In our studio, there are columns in the centre of the room and headroom is too low to meet our needs.”
They turned to ArtisTree; with its sprung floors and retractable seating, it allowed them to prepare for the show and easily practice group scenes.
“ArtisTree is a well-equipped space for rehearsals and stage production. It enabled us to try out large group movements,” Wong continues. “Dance performances usually require larger spaces with high ceilings and sprung floors, to enable routines like lifting.”
The stint at ArtisTree was ‘’open’’, meaning members of the public could sit in and watch the creative process unfold. For Wong, the experience was useful. “At an open rehearsal, the choreographer can share his or her ideas with the audience. We can assess how the audience perceives and reacts to the concepts, which helps the development of the work,” he says. “During a closed rehearsal, we focus on the details, the structure and movement development, which is when the piece is at more of an incubation stage.”
Wong also thinks using alternative performance and rehearsal spaces can help dance troupes innovate, too. “Dance creates magic if it happens in an unconventional space like a heritage site or even on the streets,” he says. “Different spaces can inspire and evoke ideas for choreographers.”