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Sensing Bodies

Dam Van Huynh’s choreographic language speaks of a clear physical elegance. Yet underlying this focused physicality is an energy that is powerful, sometimes bordering on frenetic. [Black Square], the work that he will be featuring at this year’s M1 Fringe Festival, displays these urgent characteristics.

Choreographed for and performed by the dancers of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, parts of the work feature large groups of people marching forwards menacingly in all directions before launching into a series of abrupt gestural movements.

A quick preview of his other works reveal that he is not always this fierce. Earlier works such as Mural Studies display his penchant for the beauty of the moving body – disjointed yet always flowing through with energy.

Attracted to his use of space on stage as well as the exploration of the possibilities of the body, I posed several questions in the hopes of finding out more. The response I got was humble and spoke of the need to constantly discover himself.
Being a dancer myself, I could not agree with him more – in the end it always leads back to the self.

LMW: The biggest difference between [Black Square] and your other works such as Collision, Mural Studies and Sudden Change of Event, after watching the youtube clips, was that [B S] seemed a lot more urgent, frantic, like there was almost a sort of menacing energy coursing through the work as opposed to the other three works mentioned. I am interested in finding out why, stylistically, [B S] seems to stand on its own as compared to your other works.

DVH: When I am creating a choreographic piece, I believe that the work itself already exists within the space and within the artists involved. My job is to bring everything out into the open and let the work reveal itself. In this manner, [B S] was influenced by the great number of dancers. The work was originally created for 21 dancers and at the time the collective group made a very strong impression of strength upon me. The stylistic difference of [B S] to my previous works may also be a reflection of my constant attempt at evolving and developing further my ideas on how I perceive movement. With each new creative work, I am able to reflect different aspects of my imagination, myself and the contemporary world in which I reside.

LMW: Watching the video clips of Sudden Change of Event and Mural Studies it is rather apparent that you have very strong ideas of the usage of space and its demarcations.

DVH: Space is everywhere: outer space, immediate space surrounding a body, inner space, etc. All of them combine to make my job virtually impossible. It is a good thing I love a challenge! Space itself is infinite. The challenge of working in such an environment is how to utilize it effectively. As a choreographer, I look at space as a variable that moves – rather than a variable that is fixed – to which the body moves through. I perceive space as almost a tangible element in which the dancers can throw, stir, carve or feel. In this respect, the surrounding space is constantly moving and affected by the dancers. As the body moves through the space, the viewing audience will reframe their perspective in order to view the dance, in doing so the space itself has shifted and moved from the original space to be potentially a new space within another space.

LMW: “A whole lifetime in this body, it would be a tragedy not to understand the vessel that you occupy.” This statement from the documentary 3 Minutes Wonder – Dam Van Huynh, Documentary really struck me. Your thoughts on how you will achieve this understanding of “the vessel” through your art.

DVH: “The vessel” in my mind is the door way from “I” the inner self to my surrounding world. My vessel that is my body connects me to what is around me. As I further explore and unveil the deeper layers of what is possible in my movement capability and challenge my own ideas on the origin of movement.
I begin to engage upon an understanding of myself. I believe that in order to better understand our surrounding world, we must first understand ourselves. In this respect, my art form has provided me with the tool to access my inner self and subsequently my outer environment.