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Tenacity and Purpose

Christina Huang Danyang of School of Dance and Denzel Yung Cheuk-lun of School of Theatre and Entertainment Arts

1 Nov 2021

To join the entertainment industry, whether as an actor or a production team member, requires stamina and hard work. Both Christina Huang Danyang, a Year 3 student of the School of Dance, and Denzel Yung Cheuk-lun, a Year 4 student of the School of Theatre and Entertainment Arts, have both in spades, character traits that have stood them in good stead during a disrupted year.


Christina and Denzel were interested in the performing arts from a very young age. After joining the Academy, they reaffirmed their commitment to their goals through continuous theoretical learning and practical application. Last year, stage performances and student productions were cancelled, disrupting their plans. However, this did not stop Christina and Denzel from equipping themselves professionally, so that they could better benefit from classes once they resumed.


"Remember your passion and respect for art," Christina cautions. "If you hold it dear and dedicate yourself to it, art will bring you anywhere you want in the world."  The pursuit of dreams may be a bumpy ride. Success may only come to the strongest and most steadfast. But our students have what it takes.


An Early Love Affair


Christina Huang fell in love with dance at the age of 3. She learnt ballet in primary and secondary school in the Mainland. In 2019, she enrolled at the School of Dance, majoring in contemporary dance.


"Life is a series of experiences," she says. "Contemporary dance opens up more possibilities in my body. Through contemporary dance, I hope to explore my many selves and learn about different art forms in the world, and in doing so unleash greater potential and inspiration for performance."


Compared to her early ballet lessons, Christina observes that the Academy's teaching stresses more than technique; it involves different facets of the art of dance.


"The teachers here impart knowledge from different dimensions, such as dance education, dance science, and choreography," she notes. "Through these aspects, they guide us to an understanding of the concept of beauty, and what is dance. They fuel our imagination and encourage us to reflect on our ties to the world. For me, this is unprecedented."


Christina describes the style of her contemporary dance instructor Li Yongjing as "teaching and enlightening students through love." Not only does Li teach dance moves, she also cares about the very soul of her students.


"When learning a move, how do we find the link between it and ourselves?" Christina asks. "How should we look upon the relationship between our body and the space in which we move? Under Ms Li's guidance, our thinking has reached new heights. When we look at dance from fresh angles, we gain a deeper understanding, and new sensory perceptions of the moves."


Proactive Learning


Christina enjoyed campus life for a short time before the pandemic struck. Watching daily news stories of life and death on television, she began to ponder what an artist-to-be could do in such times. She contacted Lin Fan, a dancer friend in the United States, and the two went on to create a virtual choreographic work titled N95.


"I want to record what was happening at the time and convey a message of hope," Christina says. "Only hope can help us overcome pain, because hope empowers."


The world seems to have stopped, but the dancing must continue. Since the School of Dance was holding online classes, Christina's parents paved their living-room floor, mounted full-length mirrors on the walls, and installed barres, so she could continue to practise. During the pandemic, the School's Dean's Special Artist Series became a bridge connecting the School with artists all over the world. The webinar Public Talk: Choreographic Dialogue with William Forsythe, held in July this year, was a wondrous learning opportunity for Christina.


"William Forsythe is a choreographer I deeply admire and respect," she notes. "I have watched all his works. When I knew the dean had invited him to share his choreographic experience, it was a dream come true. Simply unforgettable!"


Even if the world has changed, Christina's goal remains unperturbed. "The School's training is highly comprehensive," she points out. "When we graduate, we will have mastered knowledge of all kinds. I hope to be able to use what I learnt as a full-time dancer. I want to enjoy time on stage and share my passion for my art form with the audience."


Close Ties with Industry


Denzel Yung majors in lighting technology in the Media Design & Technology Department of the School of Theatre and Entertainment Arts. He attributes his choice of specialisation and interest in the backstage to the influence of his father, an audio volunteer in church.  As a secondary student, Denzel participated in the stage production of a theatre workshop. He undertook creative studies, and after graduation worked in an architectural-lighting design firm for a year.  Then he applied to the Academy.


"I met people working in the theatre through my work and studies," he explains. "I was also involved in lighting design, which gave me insight into the possibilities and requirements of it, in particular, stage lighting design. Lighting creates different atmospheres that can greatly enhance a work or performance. I am extremely interested in theatrical production. I hope to grow professionally in this direction."


Denzel says he was attracted by the Academy's abundant internship opportunities. However, his second year at the Academy coincided with the pandemic. Performances on stage were cancelled. The only show to happen last year, Sunset Concert 2020, moved online.


"With no shows to work on, this fell into our lap," Denzel says. "Along with four classmates, I got to serve as a producer of the concert. It was unbelievable. Before that, I had only done live shows. Livestreaming is a totally different game that, among a plethora of other wonderful things, improved communication among us."


After a very challenging few months, performances slowly resumed. Breathing at Zero, held in May this year, saw Denzel as the video-system engineer and programmer.


"The Academy offers students plenty of opportunities to build our network and make the acquaintance of artists, designers, and other industry professionals," he explains.


The show has resulted in further jobs for Denzel, including Freespace Jazz Fest and A Thousand Plateaus , both organised by the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.


"It's an amazing opportunity to be able to take part in productions outside the Academy," he says. "The workflow and pace are very different. It opened my eyes to how things are done in the profession, and learning from different industry experts."


Contributing to Local Musicals


Theatre workers are known for their endurance and for working long hours. Perhaps their greatest motivation is seeing the results of their hard work: the sets and stage effects they created, and the audience reaction. That's what makes everything worthwhile.


Denzel, who is graduating next year, is interested in the production of musicals. "Musicals usually have a brisk rhythm that is relaxing," he says. "Its modes of expression are a combination of components.  Actors need to sing, act and dance."


Musicals are not yet mainstream in Hong Kong. Foreign productions, meanwhile, usually contain plenty of culture-specific features that may render them unsuitable for the local market. Denzel looks forward to seeing Hong Kong musicals in Cantonese.


"Hong Kong has limited resources, unlike in some other places where a single show can survive on a lengthy tour," he says. "This is what theatre workers here need to consider – how to express what they want to express with a limited budget? Hong Kong needs more talent to be involved in local productions. I am looking to stay put, and develop my career in the local theatre industry."


The article was published in the November 2021 issue of Academy NewsClick here to read the original story.)


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