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      Patsy Lo

      #SpeakingInDance: If Life Ends Tomorrow, How Will You Be Remembered?

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      “Hey, should we have a video call? I put make up on for this call since it is our first time talking,” I said to Frankie Ho.

      “Oh, I didn’t put make up on. But no worries, let’s do a video call,” she replied as she put her face on the screen. In her hair was a simple black hair clip, the kind you buy from the mom-and-pop shops in Hong Kong. The clip was pinning up her bangs to the right side of her forehead.

      That was our first (virtual) meeting — she in Hong Kong, me in Paris. I felt her forthrightness and her appreciation of the honesty in others in that instant — that instant of her showing her “naked” face.

      Before our online meeting, I had come across her work through the ArtisTree Selects programme last August. At the dynamic 7,000-square-feet space, set up by the Swire Properties group, she had staged STAY/AWAY, which was specifically commissioned for the programme.

      There were two parts to STAY/AWAY. By day, it featured an iconic set with a box, designed by renowned Berlin-based Japanese artist Yoko Seyama and with original music by German composer Dirk P. Haubrich. By night, it was a performance space which made use of the entire venue, allowing the audience to freely roam around. They could choose their viewpoint, picking different distances and angles to feel the performance.

      STAY/AWAY posed a question — we often think that we are free, but are we? We are confined by our physical space, confined by the way we were brought up and confined by our resources. Sometimes, we even become obsessed with building a certain way of life and, in the end, we become enslaved by it. This was communicated in this piece through the translucent box in the middle.

      STAY/AWAY, performed at ArtisTree in August 2019. Choreographers: Frankie Ho and Bruce Wong; Composer: Dirk P. Haubrich; Set designer: Yoko Seyama. Dancer: Bruce Wong
      STAY/AWAY, performed at ArtisTree in August 2019. Choreographers: Frankie Ho and Bruce Wong; Composer: Dirk P. Haubrich; Set designer: Yoko Seyama. Dancer: Bruce Wong

      The dancer inside the box thinks that he or she is special, loving being on a pedestal and the distance from the “normal” people on the outside. The dancer feels fine being inside the box, dancing in it and looking at the outside world with a certain disdain. Yet, the disdain is also felt by those on the outside, looking at the dancer living inside this box.

      STAY/AWAY, performed at ArtisTree in August 2019. Dancer: Frankie Ho
      STAY/AWAY, performed at ArtisTree in August 2019. Dancer: Frankie Ho

      At the end of the performance, the dancer inside the box is “evaporated” in a white mist.  To me, this signals a certain end of existence.

      This was a rather hard subject which STAY/AWAY touched on.

      “Have you ever thought that if the piece is a slightly more ‘commercial’ or ‘lighter’, more people would like it?” I asked Frankie.

      “I do not know how to do it any other way. I am not trying to be stubborn or arrogant about it.  Sometimes, I wish that I knew how to be ‘lighter’, if that’s the right word,” she giggled as she gave me this seemingly simple response.

      Frankie graduated from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) with a major in Musical Theatre Dance. Upon graduation, she was granted the Hong Kong Jockey Club Music and Dance Fund Scholarship to further her dance studies in the United States. In addition, she was the recipient in 2005 of a study trip, jointly organised by the Jiri Kylian Foundation and the Hong Kong Arts Festival, at the Nederlands Dans Theater in Den Haag.

      Simply put, dance is in her blood.

      “Since high school, I knew I would have to dance. I danced seven days a week when I was a student at HKAPA. When I went home after classes, I kept dancing. The pain didn’t bother me. Actually, I don’t even remember feeling any pain,” she confessed to me during one of our late-night conversations.

      I used to wondered, for artists, do they worry about being misunderstood or being mistaken as being stubborn and self-serving in their work.

      I have come to understand that this is an irrelevant question. For most artists, like Frankie, the most important reason for being is to share. Through their work, and sometimes actually only through their work, we understand life and we get to feel our suppressed emotions. They are sharing with us their nakedness, their souls and their craft. Often, they do this without any financial rewards. In fact, they often have to fund their own projects.

      edd_7791
      Frankie Ho, founder and artistic director of the Hook Dance Theatre. Photo: Eddie Wong

      Frankie set up her own dance company, Hook Dance Theatre, to share her art. She also spends her time volunteering by cooking (“not very good food,” she says) and delivering food to the elderly, and teaching dance and movement to kids.

      I admire Frankie. I admire her for her openness and generosity in sharing and for showing us societal issues. I admire her because she is “stubborn”. Because I believe that it is a greater sin to see what’s wrong, know what’s wrong — and look away.

      You may disagree on whether you like her work. There is one thing, however, that you cannot do — you cannot ignore someone like Frankie. She will always be remembered for her dedication and her relentless pursuit of her art, even sometimes at the cost of her own bank account and popularity.

      Hook Dance Theatre

      “History rarely yields to one person, but think and never forget what happens when it does. That can be you. That should be you. That must be you.” ~ Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

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