365 Ways of Doing and Undoing Orientalism / Flight

(Expressions Dance Company & Hong Kong City Contemporary Dance Company)


365 Ways of Doing and Undoing Orientalism, choreographed by Willy Liang, Sang Jijia, and Xing Liang is performed by the dancers of City Contemporary Dance Company from Hong Kong. Exploring whether or not there is change in history, life and tradition, it is presented in four segments representing the four seasons.

Autumn is presented with dancers in hats with long feathers, that flick effectively when they move their heads. The girls have costumes with extra long sleeves that swirl around them as they dance. We also see dancers with swords, spears, a knife and a flag. All of these props are used very effectively as they are twirled and swung throughout the dance.

The female dancers in Spring appear with various instruments, as if making up a band. Later the dancers use these instruments as if they were a totally different prop, for example, a gun, a golf club, and even a walking aid. We see men in masks, and a spectacular dragon dance.
Summer is definitely the sexiest piece in this act. We have a couple being very passionate with each other on a bed. It covers many themes of the passion of the bedroom and lovemaking, and ultimateley shows the power that women have over men in this environment. We see the rest of the company as the revolutionary army, giving the audience the sense that the same passion can be found in both these situations.

In Winter, a conclusion approaches as the dancers bring together all the props and styles of the previous seasons. It makes the audience think about whether or not there is change, and that maybe everything happens for a reason and will always follow a tradition.

The music for this ballet is very appropriate and suits the various pieces well. Silvio Chan’s costumes are simple but extremely effective. The set, also designed by Chan, is exciting and mysterious, and as it grows becomes more impressive. The colours of the set and costumes help portray the mood of each piece and season, as does the lighting design by Jo Phoa. Xing Liang and Wu Yisan deserve special mention for their bedroom antics in the Summer scene. Their total abandonment and commitment to each other and the movement is simply breathtaking. Every dancer in the company is of an exeptionally high standard, and captures and keeps the audience’s attention. What audiences will find fabulous about this piece is the absolute spectacle that it is. It is always wonderful to have a touring company from overseas showing our audiences another culture and style, yet still basing it in the familiar communication that is dance.

We are then treated to Expressions Dance Company performing Flight! This piece is based on the definition of the word flight, and the various meanings and themes associated with it. As choreographer, Maggi Sietsma discovered many different meanings of the word, and decided to base this work on the act of flying or fleeing, running away. The story centres around a character named Dave, and how he copes with various aspects of his life. How he copes with love, his mother, past memories, and demons within his own mind. Once he frees his mind of these demons, is when he can truly take flight.

Sietsma’s choreography is, as always, outstanding. The quirky style really draws you in and surprises as to what is going to happen next. The athleticism of the dancers is amazing, as is their dance ability. The set and costumes designed by Greg Clarke are simple yet effective, and don’t distract too much from the story. One of the inventive ideas is the use of helium balloons, adding greatly to the scene. Seeing Dave throw himself at the wall at the back of the space is also a powerful moment. The lighting design by Abel Valls is stark yet effective, and helps create the mood. The soundtrack is a well compiled range of styles that complements both story and choreography. Some parts of the piece are a little long, but generally the audience’s attention is captured the whole time. This ballet really shows the insecurities of men, and almost exaggerates this theme in a positive way.

The use of words throughout the piece is effective, and adds to the atmosphere. The appearance of the guys as various superheroes is comical and extremely well done. It is rather ironic, for a contemporary company, that one of the showstopper moments of the piece is an absolute classical ballet step performed by Ryan Males as a superhero when he says “watch me fly”, and does turning jetes around the stage, to the obvious delight of the audience. It just proves that all styles of dance need that classical basis, and that the really talented dancers, no matter what style they perform, always have classical training behind them.

Overall, these two companies provide a night of exquisite entertainment, and should be congratulated on their efforts and achievements. Whether you are an avid dance fan, or have never seen dance live before, this show has something for everyone, and is well worth a night out.

— Tamsin Sutherland
(Performance seen: Fri 15th August 2003)