From the stage, to the streets, to a 360° dance video: – A conversation with
Due to the pandemic, the luxury of travelling has temporarily taken a pause. While the temporal loss of the ease of travelling may seem like a bummer, we are now able to make use of technology to connect virtually, and we turned to text messages and social media to check in on one another. In this post, we sat down with Alice Ma, choreographer of Over Master, to catch up on what she’s up to.
Dear Alice, you were meant to perform Over Master at the Festival this year. But because of pandemic restrictions, Over Master will be presented instead as a 360° dance video. Do you see this as a new opportunity?
I learned a lot while creating this video. Initially, I thought it was impossible to present the original concept of the Over Master as a video. I also didn’t want to just simply film the “complete” version of Over Master and show it on screen instead. But I started to understand video itself is a different form of “performance”.
Because of the pandemic, we’re already seeing many artists moving into the digital space. There are so many multi-media and virtual reality techniques we have yet to try, and technological innovations are advancing everyday. All artists working in dance and theatre should try their hand at a digital product at least once, because it truly is a phenomenon of our time.
Why did you choose the format of 360° dance video?
I’ve always wanted to perform Over Master on the streets of Hong Kong. In the original dance, I play a “conductor” who is trying to manipulate the external world. I use my movements to control what’s around me, but eventually lose control and all my movements become controlled by the baton.
The concept of wanting to “control” society, but somehow being “controlled” by it feels more vivid when you perform it on the streets. Using a 360° video, it helps the audience immerse themselves in the setting and in the theatrical performance. I found Over Master very suitable for this format, and it helps to provoke the audience’s imagination.
Were there any challenges working on this video?
It was a lot more challenging than I expected! The timing is extremely tricky. You need to be very accurate. The height that you place your camera also makes a huge difference in the camera angles. We had to experiment and do many takes.
When it comes to video work, there’s a tendency to also emphasise the editing and less on the concept of the dance. In this video, I wanted the audience to be able to focus on the concept and it was a challenge to balance this with the editing.
As choreographers, we usually have full creative control of our work, but when you work on a video, the director also plays a major role in how this work is being presented to the audience. I also had to learn how to communicate and work with a director, to learn how to express my concept and aesthetic, while trusting the director to fulfil my creative vision. It’s learning to share the creative process.
Over Master was made before the pandemic in 2019. It has been two years since you made it! Do you think older works will become obsolete with time?
For me, it’s not so much about whether a work becomes out-dated. I believe a work can have a life of its own. When I created this piece in March 2019, it was before the Hong Kong demonstrations. Soon after, the demonstrations started and have been going on for two years. As society around us changes, it can also offer an additional layer of context and perspective to the ideas I explore in Over Master. Ultimately, I believe if you create work that’s grounded in the human experience, I don’t think these works will ever go out of date.
How can artists sustain themselves during these challenging times?
Work harder to live well and live better. An artist needs to learn different things, not just skills related to the arts. You need to try things you wouldn’t normally do when you’re really busy. When you know how to live well, you will be able to see new opportunities.