The new performance from the Hong Kong Dance Company combines dance theatre with minimal Canto-opera to yet again enchant and delight
Inspired by Chinese tales and traditions, the Hong Kong Dance Company has a proud history of putting Chinese culture at the centre of their work. Local audiences have been enchanted and delighted for years by Shan Shui: An Ode to Nature, L’Amour Immortel, Lady White of West Lake, and The Legend of Mulan. The upcoming performance of Waiting Heart is sure to do the same.
Waiting Heart premiered in 2018 to great acclaim and won two Hong Kong Dance Awards in 2019 for Outstanding Medium Venue Production and Outstanding Lighting Design. The performance reinterprets the epic Chinese love story, The Legend of the Purple Hairpin 紫釵記, in a joint performance with the Utopia Chinese Opera Workshop. This year, the artistic adventure returns to the stage to celebrate the inheritance of traditions and the wonders of contemporary imagination. Be sure to grab your tickets for the highly anticipated Waiting Heart. Find out more below.
The Legend of the Purple Hairpin
The Legend of the Purple Hairpin has a long and beloved history in Chinese culture. The tale of lovers separated by fate was already considered a classic in the Tang dynasty before it became a popular zaju (雜劇)—a form of Chinese drama and theatre—in the Ming dynasty. Today, many are familiar with the tale through Tang Ti-sheng’s celebrated Cantonese opera from 1956.
The legend begins with the poet Li Yi, who—during the Lantern Festival on the first full-moon night of the lunar New Year—falls in love with the beautiful Huo Xiaoyu, who hangs her purple hairpin on a plum tree branch as a keepsake. But the lovers are separated by a powerful imperial court official, who banishes Li to a frontier post and tells Huo that Li has changed his mind about her. Later, the lovers are reunited by a mysterious swordsman, Yellow Robe, who reveals the truth. “The love story of Huo Xiaoyu and Li Yi is a eulogy that has undergone numerous transformations over the years,” says choreographer Yang Yuntao. “I think the reason why this piece can move people, regardless of the era, is because the audience can see themselves in the story. No matter how times change, the story resonates with the audience’s experiences and the feeling of love is eternal.”
Waiting Heart: Inspired by Tradition
Although The Legend of the Purple Hairpin is a Chinese cultural classic, Waiting Heart is an innovative interpretation as it combines dance theatre with minimal Canto-opera. “I like to work with people from different fields. I don’t want to just stay in the world of dance; I need to interact and collide with the outside world to create new elements and explore more possibilities,” says Yang Yuntao. “This time, with Waiting Heart, we’ve used inspirations from Cantonese opera to add new elements to the dance performance.
“The psychological state of the opera’s characters and the overall musical sense bring the charm and elegance to the dance. Also, dance is relatively abstract, so the singing in Cantonese opera delivers the plot by expressing the characters’ emotions and their inner selves. These two art forms complement each other very well.”
The innovative staging also provides an authentic and unique experience for the audience. Yang Yuntao explains: “The show breaks from the traditional proscenium stage and instead uses a modified arena theatre. We have also divided the audience into two parts: the balcony and the stalls.
“The audience in the stalls is actually within the performance area itself, with dancers, actors, and musicians moving around them, as if the chance encounters in life. These audiences will be able to appreciate the details of the artists and their performances. On the other hand, the audience in the balcony will be seated on the floor above with a different perspective. They will be looking on to the crowds in the performance area, which should be an incredible experience.
“In Waiting Heart, the audience is both the spectator and the participant. I hope they will have an extraordinary experience from the show, and appreciate the beauty and ambience created by the collaboration between dance theatre and minimal Canto-opera.”
Mark your calendars, the Hong Kong Dance Company will perform Waiting Heart at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre from 24-26 September.
Get tickets for Waiting Heart, 24-26 September, Studio Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, 10 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
This post is sponsored by Hong Kong Dance Company.