Martial arts converge with dance from West
With lights fading out at the Neilson Studio of the Sydney Dance Company, 18-year-old Australian contemporary dancer Xanthe, together with dozens of her peers, quietly walked on the center stage, ready to showcase the fruits of their Chinese martial arts training.
After spending five weeks absorbing Hung Kuen and White Crane elements from their Hong Kong teachers, the young performers, wearing navy blue tank tops and leggings, wowed the audience with fresh choreography melding Chinese martial arts and Western contemporary dance on Tuesday night.
For most of them, participating in the cultural exchange event associated with Hong Kong Dance Company's online dance production "Convergence-a journey of Chinese dance and martial arts" was their first step to learn about China and its culture from afar.
"I was like, honestly, shocked. That is so different from what we do," Xanthe said after the performance, recalling the very moment when she embarked on her learning of martial arts.
"We had five Zoom lessons with the Hong Kong Dance Company, while the first two were definitely very challenging," she says. Having been practicing contemporary dance for about 12 years, Xanthe described Chinese martial arts as "a new language to our bodies".
She took the precision of punching as an example. "Your energy is not expended until that last second when you're actually hitting the target. That's very challenging," Xanthe says, adding that it took her two to three weeks to digest and get comfortable with the body movements.
Regarding the learning of Chinese martial arts as "eye-opening", Mia, another performer with 10-year dancing experience, says it has given her a different idea and exceeded her expectation of dance, which is "really funny and interesting".
The mentality behind the White Crane practice impressed her the most, as the dancers have to hold a typical gesture to collect inner energy, she says.
Seeing the Hong Kong-Sydney dance collaboration from idea to fruition, Linda Gamblin, head of training at the Sydney Dance Company, says she is keen to help Australian dancers find an internal position of understanding their movements through this cultural exchange project.
"I find with some of our training in the West, we may be striving for perfection, and missing out on the understanding about the self," says Gamblin, also a ballet dancer who once performed in many Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Guangdong province, in the 1980s.
According to the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Sydney, the event is part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland, aiming at bonding various cultures and dance forms and boosting international cultural exchange.