How an American choreographer found her footing in HK

September 19, 2015 08:06
Kate March (L) loves to stage dance shows in restaurants. The picture here captures March and renowned chef Andrea Oschetti at a dinner show. Photo: Kennevia Photography

Kate March began showing a keen interest in dance since the age of three, helping her blossom into an acclaimed choreographer in later years.

However, it took her some time to realize that dancing was something of an "inner compulsion", rather than being a mere artistic interest.

Initially majoring in neuroscience in college, March was trained to be a medical practitioner.

But then a trip to Europe -- her first overseas travel -- at the age of 20 prompted the American to make a U-turn in life.

Staying as an exchange student in Copenhagen, March was deeply moved and inspired by local dancers and audience.

"The artists there were very professional, and the audiences would also be very appreciative of good performances," she recalls.

Given that experience in the foreign land, "I felt an inner compulsion to become a dancer upon returning to the US."

She said goodbye to neurology and embraced choreography and performance in Connecticut College. Later, she pursued a Master's degree in choreography at Middlesex University in London.

Underground performances were something that captivated March in London.

"The tunnels at abandoned Tube stations were chaotic and filthy, but they were the venues which could yield the best creative work," she says.

A scheduled two-hour performance stretched into four hours, with March and the other dancers coming up with original and spontaneous moves.

"Dancers came with forceful steps, appearing extremely neat and tidy in feminine dresses and high-heels. By the end of the show, everyone was very exhausted, completely covered in thick mud. Yet the audience didn't feel tired of us."

An Evening of Meat was another audacious production from March, featuring female dancers in provocative costumes and movements on the dining table in a restaurant.

"In the narrow space, the audience's senses open up wide. Wine, food and cinematic performances by the dancers help people experience the time and space of the moment.”

According to March, a same show sometimes elicits different responses from the audience.

The Britons were quite conservative and felt uneasy at first, but later they would also be fascinated by the dance.

Germans and Hongkongers, on the other hand, would make bold moves right away, interacting with dancers and feeding them or even dance with them.

Before moving to Hong Kong in 2011, March was told that Hong Kong is a cultural desert.

But, now having lived here for more than four years, she doesn't agree with the general notion, insisting that Hong Kong people do actually have a craving for arts.

March points out that she usually receives good feedback from the locals, who eagerly tell her what they felt and experienced during her productions.

"I think Hong Kong audiences are more willing and ready to accept new ideas than people from other places. Locals are curious and look forward to new performances."

March’s latest production, Love Pings, is going to be staged at the Fringe Club in Central from Oct. 8 to 10. It is an urban love story exploring the interactions between men and women in the digital era.

"How people are connected to one another is always my area of interest," she says.

"We rely too heavily on technology. Romantic relationships seem to be easy in the virtual world. But is that for real in reality?"

The production was inspired by March's life in Hong Kong. Like many Hong Kong people, the American found work-life balance difficult, if not impossible.

"If you are ambitious at work, you will be so caught up by the opportunities in the city. Work just keeps engulfing you. I find it hard to say no as I’ve got so many interests and there are so much I would like to try out."

March says she is completely fascinated by the city, and that few places elsewhere can match Hong Kong’s vibrancy.

She hopes to continue her work here and create shows that offer moments of relief to the busy city dwellers.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 18.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version中文版]

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March says she is impressed by Hong Kong diners, who are usually willing to interact with the dancers. Photo: Kennevia Photography
On top of dancing, March is also busy filming in restaurants. Photo: HKEJ
The picture on the left depicts a scene from "Love Pings", March's latest production which is going to be staged at the Fringe Club next month. Photos: HKEJ, Karim Hapette
March is glad that she has met many like-minded art enthusiasts and performers in Hong Kong. Photo: Lorenza Brancadoro

Writer of the Hong Kong Economic Journal