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  • Writer's pictureFaye Bradley

In Discussion With The House Collective On 'Encounters Across Cultures'

The House Collective – a portfolio of four design-led boutique properties by Swire Hotels (The Upper House in Hong Kong, The Opposite House in Beijing, The Middle House in Shanghai and The Temple House in Chengdu) – launched its 'Encounters Across Cultures' artistic programme this year, showcasing different chapters of its dance-meets-architectural journey from July until December.

The Upper House worked with creators who happened to be from Hong Kong Ballet to exhibit a contemporary celebration of dance with ballerina Hennes Yuen, choreographer Yuh Egami and award-winning architect André Fu. We speak with the programme leaders and curators to learn more on the thoughtful and inspirational initiative.

Image courtesy of Stephanie Teng

What was the initial process of collaborating in this cross-culture artistic performance across four The House Collective properties?

Clarissa Tam, The House Collective Art Programme Lead:

The programme Encounters Across Cultures is about inviting creators from different cultural backgrounds and creative disciplines to collaborate together. At The House Collective, we believe that this kind of encounter with the unfamiliar is an incredible source of creativity. We feel this from the way that our own Houses were designed and created, as well as from the actual encounters between intriguing individuals that happen at our Houses. This year, we were inspired to bring dance into our Houses as a moving and very human way to engage with the space, with architecture also as a very interesting lens to look at the four Houses – their differences and connections.

The process was certainly a long one, actually starting in early 2020 so it’s been a two year journey! We reached out to interested collaborators in our network and were very fortunate to get to work with Patsy Lo, this year’s programme’s curator and producer, who has been with us for the whole journey and gathered a fantastic team of creators from dance to film, in different cities around the world, to bring this vision of creating across boundaries to life.

How can dance and architecture merge?

Leo Liu, Director:

Architecture is the art of creating space and dance is a poetic representation of our perception and emotions. When you put these two things together, you are translating the feelings and emotions inspired by the space into human forms.

Image courtesy of Gilles Sabrié

Yuh Egami, Choreographer:

Dance and architecture can totally merge – because dance is a primitive way of expression. Ballet is often seen in the theatre where it has many technical tools (lighting, set design and more) to enhance performance but Hip Hop was developed on the streets of the world. But it doesn’t mean Hip Hop shouldn’t be performed in the theatre and Ballet shouldn’t be danced on street. That being said, architecture has a lot to offer. Space design is a very important element in dance and architecture can offer something we can’t even create by set on stage… It’s more raw and real.

Image courtesy of Stephanie Teng

What is the relationship between the dancers in this performance?

Patsy Lo, Curator and Producer:

The creative team came up with the idea of a parallel universe. Hennes Yuen (ballerina – Hong Kong) and Wan Siming (Hip Hop dancer – Chengdu) are two friends envisioning themselves sharing their experiences in the two Houses together and at the same time – although they were never physically together. We wanted to create an encounter that travels beyond and through space, time and movements.

Andrea Carrucciu, Choreographer:

They open the door at the beginning to signify the beginning of their “parallel” journey. Looking towards each other and sharing their experience. Dancing in synchronicity although it is two very different dance disciplines. With the interactiveness of the installation, where they audience can stand still in front of it and see more details of the encounter, the hope is also to give the sense of the dancers leading you into these beautiful worlds.

Image courtesy of Stephanie Teng

How can dance uplift the experience for hotel guests?

Clarissa Tam, The House Collective Art Programme Lead:

Dance taps into something very instinctive that’s in all of us. It’s about being present in the space we’re in, in the body we’re in. And it communicates without language – it truly crosses borders. By bringing this art form into our Houses, we hope to invite our guests to re-encounter these spaces – and themselves – in a new light.

Image courtesy of Gilles Sabrié

What was the most challenging part of this project?

Patsy Lo, Curator and Producer:

Working remotely – the team not being able to be in the same place and not having the chance to see the properties in person throughout the creative development process.

Then there is also the dance artists not being able to rehearse in person with each other but they need to show that they are in fact dancing in synchronicities and to each other.

But all of these challenges only made the outcome more fulfilling and rewarding. As when you are able to work as a team when you hardly knew each other and have never met, the trust and faith you have in each other propels you forward despite the difficulties.

Wan Siming, Hip Hop Dance Artist:

I was rehearsing till very late and have to picture dancing with my friend in Hong Kong when she isn’t actually there.

Image courtesy of Stephanie Teng

Hennes Yuen, Ballerina:

While I was imagining that my companion was at my side, I needed to connect with her past the camera lens – to me this is certainly a challenge for my emotional expression.

Yuh Egami, Choreographer:

What’s unique about this project is that we are working with two dancers who have different dance styles in each house. And we need to create choreographies without being able to rehearse in person. In order to connect each house and dancer effectively, we came to agree that we need a strong metaphor in terms of sound. In order to weave them together.

Image courtesy of Gilles Sabrié

While we are living in a world of separation, we thought it was the best to base our dance phrases on a very basic rhythm in our life which was… Metronome sound, or more nostalgic, the clock sound.

Then one day, I was actually having a shower after one of our video conferences. Then the idea came to me that we should include “the sound of the clock - tick-tock” in the music perhaps. As that’s what tied the work together. Time and tick-tock…

Image courtesy of Stephanie Teng

Where can we see this project?

Installation dates:

The Middle House, Shanghai: 9 July through 29 August

The Opposite House, Beijing: 10 September through 25 October

The Upper House, Hong Kong: 23 September through 14 November

The Temple House, Chengdu: 6 November through 4 January 2022

What can we expect next in this space?

Coming next to The Upper House: continuing the annual tradition of inviting renowned designers to create a bespoke Christmas Tree that will then be auctioned for charity. Details to come, stay tuned.


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