Review: Hong Kong Dance Company - Mulan - Southbank Centre
Performance reviewed: 15 April 2017Rupert Thompson, Southbank Centre’s Senior Programmer for Performance and Dance, opened the performance up with a speech welcoming Hong Kong Dance Company to their debut at Southbank Centre, highlighting to the audience that the performance will be a brilliant mixture of martial arts, contemporary dance, and ballet. In doing so, Thompson was inviting the audience along on the journey, as he said, ‘to the beginning of more collaborations with China and the Chinese diaspora’ in London. To start a dance show, with such a clear message of mutual collaboration is to be applauded.
The performance however started with an unsure footing, there seemed to be a pause as the lights dimmed and the dancers uncertainly placed themselves on stage, however this was quickly rectified. With the opening group sequence setting the tone, and the music lending itself well to the story telling of what is a classic Chinese tale. Pan Linguan as Principal Dancer illuminates the stage with emotive facial expressions that one can clearly see her not only dancing with excellent technique but also her strong acting ability. Though the set design is sparse, the dance company make much use of lighting, and atmospheric smoke/fog stimulation that enables a sense of landscape and mise en scène.
The early duet with Mulan and her father, performed here by Huang Lei dances the fine line between affection and sentimentality; in the way one feels a sense of farewell and loss. The gentle footwork and physical closeness of both dancers seems to create a true connection, that builds a good tension, illustrating the disruption about to occur as Mulan joins the army, taking her father’s place.
Mulan after victory in battle asks the Emperor for a simple request to return home, the lanterns dance is in an evocation of the reunion soon to take place. When the epilogue of maiden at the loom appears, the dancers in synchronicity highlight the pathos of return, with hand and arm dance gestures sounding a note of whimsy, that things have changed, however Mulan is still who she was. Echoing that age-old notion that life experiences may change us, but we retain a core of that inner child of our youth.
Witnessing this story telling prowess, I welcome the opportunity to see more of this collaboration that also asks the audience to think beyond classic European dance and dance theatre; to see the nurturing mix of techniques and styles that can clearly add something new to Dance as a vital dynamic language.
About Hong Kong Dance Company
The Legend of Mulan – Trailer
Jobeda Khanum has worked for over 15 years in the Arts and Cultural sector in London, and is passionate about all things Dance related, combining this passion by working for Londondance.com