Based on the aesthetic basis that Unlock Dancing Plaza has gradually established through the years, the concept of #danceless is first proposed by Artistic Director Ong Yong Lock. By examining the mainstream, institutionalized dance training and aesthetics of dance, #DANCELESS complex develops another (or more than one) way of seeing, using, and connecting the body and mind. It is hoped that dance can enter more people’s lives in different forms and ways. Unlock Body Lab, which was established in 2015, aims to explore and experiment with the possibility of contemporary dance in the local context through cross-media, cross-regional, and cross-cultural cooperation and communication. It employs the performance platform, space and workshop as the main form, to create an alternative relationship between creators and audiences, encouraging creators to re-examine the established pattern and framework, and provide a more organic way of communication between the industry and the public.

As the major platform, #DANCELESS complex expands the whole concept to a larger scale, trying to unify the direction of studies in recent years in a more complete curating context, plus, presenting and communicating with the industry and the public. The inaugural festival addresses the methodology that is less understood and talked about in the local dance community through five separate works corresponding to the theme of the platform, “Choreographic Methodology”. The five works are based on different topics: Contemporary Body, Bodily Imagination, Bodily Games, Space and Perspective, and Dynamic Sculpture. Channeling the classification as an angle to view and enter the work, and at the same time, provides a larger framework to express the understanding of each choreographer for the work and the process of creation.

The platform is held from July to November 2021. In these five months, there will be a series of activities, including performances, residency programs, workshops and talks, which allow participants to further understand the work’s origin, process and motivations behind it; to unfold different levels of communication and extend the dense and short juncture in most dance festivals. This allows different cultures and perspectives to develop over time, supporting artists and participants to communicate organically.

At the same time, a writer group was formed to set up discussion sessions and exchanges with choreographers, so as to bring dance records from comments only for particular works to various discussions about “choreography”. The possibilities of dance commentary, choreography and views are explored from different perspectives, generating more ideas that can be discussed before and after the ephemeral performance, connect directly with the local dance community, and experiment with the way of archive.

To plan such a platform for a dance company, to talk about #DANCELESS through dance is nothing more than to expand the existing definition of aesthetics and breakthrough behind different cultural contexts, in the hope of stimulating the local performing arts community and reflecting on itself. How dance, as one of the expressions that brings together perception, reason and primitiveness, connects people around the world today, sharing experiences and connecting with times. Only by opening up your mind, can you see more choices and freedom.

Ong Yong Lock Artistic Director of Unlock Dancing Plaza & Co-curator of #DANCELESS complex

The use of choreography as a central theme for exploration and development throughout the project is a result of our awareness that the development of dance in Hong Kong has focused on certain aesthetics norms established by physical training, which has limited our ability to imagine how dance could be liberated. While we recognize the lack of discussion locally on how dance is being choreographed, Hong Kong is producing dance works in astonishing quantities every year. How do these works relate to Hong Kong’s cultural context and contemporary art development? How do the artists think about movement in a dynamic way? Do they spend every day on practicing flexibility and coordination? Or do they spend time on reading, thinking or planning their own choreography? How do our choreographers and dancers dismantle the patterns ingrained into the body as they undergo technical training? And how do we establish a rapport with the way the body thinks? These questions are endless because our imaginations about dance are limitless.

The #DANCELESS complex, in collaboration with five overseas artistic partners and through the proposition “choreography”, presents each of their unique choreographic style to the Hong Kong audience. The collaboration and cross-referencing with local artists stimulate our artists to think more deeply in the field of choreography, and to hopefully discover their own unique dance styles and aesthetics too.

Joseph Lee – Associate Artistic Director of Unlock Dancing Plaza & Co-curator of #DANCELESS complex

The concept of the #DANCELESS complex was put in writing prior to the pandemic – “To explore alternative possibilities in the dense network of relationships between the performing arts market and the arts festival, and to put performing arts works on the local horizon beyond considerations of resource and fame; To put this platform’s focus on the artists, their works and the space for dialogue behind cross-cultural art practice; To provide accessible resources and platforms for struggling and independent artists to publish their work”. And with 2020, came wave after wave of spikes in the pandemic that remain undispersed until today. The first #DANCELESS complex was further postponed from last year to the second half of 2021, and with the pandemic, we are still unable to clearly anticipate any upcoming uncertainties. The performing arts market and arts festivals that were meant to serve as references, and even performing arts itself, have to redefine themselves and think about how they can redeploy themselves in the face of the current plight and geographical limitations.  Nearly all organizations are testing various approaches and strategies to feel their way through the challenges that are arising one after another.

While the overseas art market is nearing a halt or seeking new avenues, the curatorial team remains convinced of the value that substantive communication and dialogue bring to artistic inspiration. The five overseas groups invited to the platform are also rethinking alternative solutions in case they cannot cross the border during these extraordinary times, while we look at the feasibility of placing local works on the platform to preserve the platform’s insistence, discussion and dialogue on diverse dance aesthetics. The #DANCELESS complex can therefore connect with the local dance community, with both creating works in parallel and using this as a foundation to enrich the interaction. The pandemic that has now lasted for over a year has brought about great uncertainty, but also the courage for change in the present and to face the unknown. Although the final presentation, state and content may not be identical to what was originally conceived, the core and direction of the curation remains unchanged, and the local uniqueness and creative direction are found in the process of searching for different solutions. If the essence of #DANCELESS lies in the reflection and contemplation of solidified formalist aesthetics, perhaps there are nearly infinite dimensions beyond that. The #DANCELESS complex provides space and time for creators, ideas and aesthetics to be seen, such that dance aesthetics of the modern era are defined and interpreted from multiple individual perspectives.

Co-curator: Ong Yong Lock, Joseph Lee
Chief Editor (Dance writing): Dick Wong
Dance Writing: Chan Wai Lok, Dong Yan, Brian Yu
Producer: Michael Li
International Public Relations and Marketing: Wouter Bouchez
Graphic Design: Peter Bird Studio
Website Design and Programme Coordinator: Yan Cheng
Videographer& Video Editor: REDTEAM
Marketing Coordinator: Chris Kwong*
Administration Coordinator: Vincent Yik

*The Arts Administration Internship Scheme is supported by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council