Willy TSAO Sing-yuen
2015 Honorary Doctorate
A pioneer and a visionary, a doer and not just a dreamer, Mr Willy Tsao Sing-yuen – company founder, choreographer, artistic director – has been in the forefront of developments in contemporary dance in Hong Kong and China for well over 30 years. Driven by a deep and abiding passion for the art form, his achievements will leave a lasting cultural and artistic legacy.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Mr Tsao attended Pui Ching Middle School in Kowloon, after which he attended Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington State, completinga degree in business administration. He then returned to Hong Kong and studied a Master of Business Administration degree at The University of Hong Kong.
Introduced to modern dance at Pacifi c Lutheran University, Mr Tsao’s life’s journey in contemporary dance began in 1979 when he established the City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC). He later helped set up the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, becoming its Artistic Director from 1992 to 1998, and its General Manager in 2004; and the Beijing Modern Dance Company where he was Artistic Director from 1999 to 2005. He established the BeijingDance / LDTX in 2005, becoming both its Company Director and Artistic Director. He also established the CCDC Dance Centre (which plays a key role in developing local choreographic talent) as well as founding the Jumping Frames International Dance Video Festival, the China Dance Forward Programme, the Guangdong Modem Dance Festival and the Beijing Modern Dance Festival. All these four projects have gained high international recognition, and have had a signifi cant impact on the development of dance not only in Hong Kong, but also in the wider region.
Mr Tsao is also a prolifi c choreographer. His works presented at arts festivals at home and abroad include Wanderings in the Realm of Lightness (1989), A Letter to Aung San Suukyi (1993), China Wind, China Fire (1995), 365 Ways ofDoing and Undoing Orientalism (2002), One Table N Chairs (2005, for which he received a Hong Kong Dance Award for Choreography), Warrior Lanling (2007), Dao Extraordinaire (2009) and In Search of the Grand View Garden (2013).
Inspiring young people in dance has been another longstanding passion of Mr Tsao’s. He started teaching modern dance at Guangdong Dance School in 1987, and at the Beijing Dance Academy (BDA) in 1988. In 1991 he was invited to be the Artistic Director of the BDA’s Youth Dance Company. He hastaught many intensive modern dance workshops in different cities on the Mainland, and in 2002 was appointed Guest Professor at the Tianjin Institute of Physical Education.
Mr Tsao’s unstinting contribution to dance has been widely recognised. He was awarded a Bronze Bauhinia Star in 1999 by the Government of HKSAR for his extensive contribution to the development of local arts, an Honorary Fellowship from The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in 2000, and the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2014
Hong Kong Dance Awards for his immense and invaluable contribution to dance in Hong Kong. Other notable awards include Dancer of the Year Award from the Hong King Artists’Guild in 1988, the Hong Kong's Ten Outstanding Young Persons award in 1990, the Badge of Honour from the Queen of the United Kingdom in 1993, and the Louis Cartier Award of Excellence – Outstanding Choreographer in 1998.