GUAN YU’S RIDE OF 1,000 MILES | Hong Kong Cultural Centre Studio Theatre

A quiet revolution is taking place in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Traditional Lion Dance is, nowadays, known as a popular street entertainment in China, especially around festivals. But celebrated choreographer Daniel Yeung has taken it into the theatre, reviving the lost, ancient tradition of “lion dance theatre”, for the first time on a modern stage with modern stagecraft.

The highlight comes near the end, where Guan Yu (here most recognisable to English-speakers as the O.G. “Luck Dragon” from The Neverending Story), played by two dancers like a pantomime horse (Steven Cheng, Andy Ka Long), hop around impossibly narrow, high plinths, dodging the hunter (Soames Lee) swinging around and beneath. Guan Yu performs a backflip as an evasive manoeuvre, leading to gasps and applause from a dumbstruck audience.

But Yeung’s piece has plenty more to offer beside the traditional. The opening is unbelievably arresting: a black mass of fabric pulsates under a spotlight, extremely slowly spreading out in an eye-dizzying manner to reveal two dancers (Mao Wei, Tracy Wong), first inextricably linked, then prematurely torn apart. From this, we follow Guan Yu’s journey, via projections (Oliver Shing), all the way to the concrete jungle of modern-day Hong Kong.

A live Chinese drum ensemble, another element from traditional lion dance, adds heart-thumping drama. Elsewhere, distorted electronic music complements the digital projections. Yeung’s passion brings all these elements from old and new into a cohesive narrative model; the results are jaw-dropping.

This world premiere was commissioned by the New Vision Arts Festival 2018.

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