'The Rite of Spring' echoes protests in HK: Hong Kong Week in Taiwan

Helen Lai’s 1992 dance reflects Hong Kong today

Taiwanese dancer Chou Shu-yi to perform "The Rite of Spring" (photo: Hong Kong Week's Facebook page)

Taiwanese dancer Chou Shu-yi to perform "The Rite of Spring" (photo: Hong Kong Week's Facebook page)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Hong Kong's legendary choreographer Helen Lai (黎海寧) is restaging the classic work "The Rite of Spring," a dance reflecting the chaos of Hong Kong in the 1990s, at Hong Kong Week in Taiwan in September.

During its visit to Taiwan, Hong Kong's City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC) will celebrate its 40th anniversary with the show "Winterreise ·The Rite of Spring." Lai has voiced concern about the situation in Hong Kong, saying that she "has to stand out" for Hong Kong, reported the Liberty Times.

Lai's "Rite of Spring," which debuted in 1992, has been praised by Lin Hwai-min, the founder of Taiwan's Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, as a "Ukiyo-e print of the turbulent 1990s." Chou Shu-yi (周書毅), an award-winning Taiwanese dancer known for his pensive style, has been invited to perform with the CDDC.

Helen Lai and Chou Shu-Yi met with the media on Tuesday (Aug. 13) and talked about the creation of "The Rite of Spring." The two artists decided to collaborate on and stage the dance in 2018, without knowing what awaited Hong Kong in the coming months, reported the Central News Agency (CNA).

The dance was originally choreographed by the prominent dancer Vaslav Nijinsky and sparked controversy at its premiere in Paris in 1913, probably due to the shockingly original music and choreography. Lai was fascinated by the event, which led her to reconsider the relationship between an audience, performers, and choreographers, and consequently created her own "Rite".

The parallels between the 27-year-old dance and the current situation in Hong Kong surprise and worry Lai. She has been taking part in the Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests, including the march on June 9 and a demonstration by Hong Kong's arts community on Aug. 5.

The renowned choreographer thinks it is too early to tell whether the situation in Hong Kong will affect the creative freedom of its artists. "I hope that nobody will begin to self-censor because I still believe that we can do what we want at the moment," she said.

Chou also commented that Lai's "Rite" has a deep connection to the contemporary world in which "the unrest has been repeated and has never died down." Chou tried to incorporate his own interpretation and feelings into the dance, according to CNA.

"Winterreise," an emotional piece set to Schubert's famous music of the same name, is co-choreographed by Lai and the dancers and depicts the loneliness of travelers on wintry roads, reported the Liberty Times. "I want to contrast spring with winter, two distinct styles of dancing and two unique stories, and present different aspects of the troupe," said Lai.

Five performance groups from Hong Kong will participate in Hong Kong Week in Taiwan, which runs from Sep. 18 to 29. For more information, please visit their Facebook page.