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Seeing from Multiple Perspectives

Chloe Wan Ho-yee of School of Dance and Martin Lai Siu-fung of School of Theatre and Entertainment Arts

30 Nov 2022
Seeing from Multiple Perspectives

While many arts students are pursuing a primary passion, it can lead them in directions that they do not expect. As a result, an arts education is both a highly creative and also eclectic experience.


That is true for Chloe Wan Ho-yee and Martin Lai Siu-fung. Three years ago, a calling caused Chloe to enrol in ballet at the Academy's School of Dance. Around the same time, Martin felt a similar pull to join the School of Theatre and Entertainment Arts to study sound art. Besides delving into their majors, the two are also trying their hand at fresh endeavours – Chloe was nominated by her School for the Youth Ambassador Scheme while Martin is about to go on exchange in Scotland.


Chloe Wan, who began dancing at the age of 3, remembers only two activities from all her time in secondary school: dance and study. In hindsight, those six years seem "crazy," even to her.


"I went to dance practice every day after school, then I went home to shower and have dinner," she recalls. "I would start doing homework and revising at midnight. Life during holidays was basically dance and private tuition. I never went out with friends."


Why would a teenager want to focus on dance at the expense of social activities and screen time? It just came naturally.


"Dance is part of my life," Chloe replies calmly. "It's normal for me to devote large chunks of time to dance. It's like you have to eat every day, but you never ask, 'Why am I wasting time on eating?' "


Chloe is the only child of open-minded parents who never pressured her, whether it was to study or to dance. Her decision to pursue ballet sprang entirely from her heart.


"If you get 100% on an exam, it's a perfect score. But in ballet, perfection is elusive," she effuses. "There's always the next hurdle, the next challenge. Improvement is an incessant process."


After high school, Chloe was accepted by the Academy's School of Dance to pursue her calling, supported by the Dean of School of Dance Admission Scholarship as well as an HKAPA Scholarship. At the Academy, she honed her skills while branching out to experiment with unfamiliar dance fields.


"I learnt that dance can mean much more than being the dazzling prima ballerina on stage," she notes. "There are many potential directions for growth. For instance, dance science is a fascinating field that studies muscular and psychological conditions. In a dance company, staff responsible for data analysis and support are just as important as the dancers."


Chloe plans to apply to dance companies after graduation. Then when she is past the "prime age" for a ballerina, she may study for a master's degree in dance science at the Academy.


Growing Into a Leader


When she was 14, Chloe joined the Academy's Gifted Young Dancer Programme, where she came under the nurturing tutelage of Prof. Stella Lau Yin-ling, Senior Lecturer of Ballet as well as the Leader of the Gifted Young Dancer Programme and Outreach.


"Teacher Stella brought me under her wing," Chloe explains. "She arranged for me to take the most advanced ballet classes with the older girls. She also took care of my daily life, like a mother. I am very grateful to her."


Recently, School of Dance recommended Chloe for the Youth Ambassador Scheme with the Youth Development Commission (YDC). This has allowed her to get involved in a world outside of dance.


"The scheme has 50 participants from various backgrounds," she notes. "We attend talks and workshops to learn about different people and topics in society. It's an invaluable experience." Co-organised by the Hong Kong SAR Government and the YDC, the programme aims to train youth into community-minded leaders.


When it comes to social service, Chloe's goals are clear. She hopes to combine professional knowledge acquired at the Academy with what she has learnt as an ambassador to do her bit for dance. "Many people think dancers only know how to dance," she says. "But we make contributions to society, too. I hope for a chance to speak for our field. I will try to develop in this direction, and see how far I can go."


Helping Hand of Happenstance


Sound-design specialism Martin Lai has always loved music and audio equipment. He had a taste of sound design when invited to provide guitar accompaniment for a theatre production in Secondary 6. It was fun. After high school, he followed the advice of his teachers to study computer science at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU). But an accident made him rethink his future.


"My friend and I got into a car accident just before our finals in Year 3," he explains. "It made me miss the exams and gave me an epiphany – music and audio is the path for me."


Martin left CityU for the Academy's School of Theatre and Entertainment Arts. The first two years consist of a foundation course that he found eye-opening.


"I used to dabble in audio equipment in my free time, but my knowledge was at best superficial," he admits. "The Academy and the internal productions trained us into professionals. It showed me how big the world is, and the bottomless depths of technical production. There's enough to keep me learning forever."


Outside his specialty, Martin loves the humanities. For instance, he finds the constant self-questioning of philosophy classes rewarding, giving him invaluable internal insight. "Artists and creators need lots of input to produce something with a creative message," he insists. "Otherwise we are skilled but soulless labourers."


Through an Academy production, Martin had a surprise reunion with Askey, a sound mixer he met at the theatre in Secondary 6. "I was very interested in sound mixing, and would keep asking him questions that he painstakingly replied," Martin remembers. "He even took me with him to work, to show me how the industry works." Askey, an Academy alumnus, freelances as a guest lecturer in some Academy productions. Last year, he turned advisor to Martin. "It's synchronicity," Martin says. "He taught me a lot, and gave me endless support and encouragement. A true mentor."


A Timely Lesson


In another large-scale production, Interstage 2021 Nei4 Ssang1, Martin got to work alongside industry heavy-weights, including concert producer Hong Ka-chun, music director Edgar Hung, and guitarist Tsui Chin-hung. The no-nonsense professionalism of the team held a mirror up to his own inadequacies.


"I see how meticulously they prepared for the performance," he says. "By contrast, I was careless and negligent. I realised I was some distance away from that level of professionalism."


Martin is thankful that it is a lesson that he got to learn as a student. If it had happened in the workplace, the

consequences would have been a lot more serious. The Academy has an exchange programme with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Martin's application was successful, so he is about to leave for a half-year sojourn in Glasgow.


"More than technical knowledge, I'm looking forward to the experiences, such as working with the local production crew, and understanding the climate and zeitgeist of theatre production," he says. "There are no dogmas in today's audio world, just a bunch of different paths. I hope to learn more by observing."


When asked about his long-term goals, Martin seems bashful. "Well, ideally," he begins haltingly, "I feel there are too many restrictions in theatre production. If I call the shots one day, I would try to bring more vitality and inclusiveness to the field, and allow different voices to exist. Perhaps I am too idealistic, but I hope this day will come."


Martin's experience as a student has seen him mature in a way that should set him on his chosen career path. Perhaps that far-off dream will come into being, a little sooner than Martin might expect.



The article was published in the Dec 2022 issue of Academy News. Click here to read the original story.)



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