In the Show: February 3rd 2009

oxWe’re now officially in the Year of the Ox. To celebrate the new year, a former cattle-holding depot and slaughterhouse has become the venue for an exhibition devoted to the bovine beast. In the ongoing exhibition at the Artist Commune, “Cattle 101”, local artists welcome the Year of the Ox.

The ox is often seen as a symbol of hard work, strength, power, and even virility. But in the exhibition, such innovations as a plastic bag ox, a cow-shaped pond, a tree bark ox, or a wooden ox, put new spins on the old symbolism. Materials used by the artists include wood, metal, stone, ox horns and plastic coat hangers. While some focus on capturing the animal’s special qualities, others want to convey specific messages. We talk to the exhibition’s curator and some of the artists.

For many local ballet fans the Lunar New Year has got off to a somewhat shocking start. The 2009 calendar for the Hong Kong Ballet prominently features principal dancer Faye Leung. So does publicity material for the “All Bach” programme, a production to mark the company’s 30th anniversary.

But Faye, whose performances have frequently been a highlight of the company’s productions over the past thirteen years, will not be dancing in that programme. Just three weeks before the performance, the company’s board dismissed her with immediate effect.

She had been chosen by all four visiting choreographers for the “All Bach” show and was still in rehearsal when told to leave on 23rd January. She says the dismissal came out of the blue. The company says “the board felt Faye Leung and the company are going in different directions.” Outgoing artistic director John Meehan has expressed shock that any ballet company’s board would fire a principal dancer without consulting the artistic director.

Faye, who has said she has “done nothing wrong” is now retracting a termination agreement she feels was signed under duress, and is asking for a proper explanation of her dismissal.

The chairman of the board of Hong Kong Ballet John Ying, is expected to brief the Home Affairs Bureau, which subsidises the company, on Leung’s dismissal this week.

When The Works went to film the “All Bach” rehearsals last Friday we asked who is replacing Faye Leung, but were told “no decision has been made” and yet “the show must go on”. We show clips from the rehearsals and interview some of the choreographers involved.

Some of the art we feature on The Works, such as painting or sculpture, is very specific and concrete. You can collect it. Hold it in your hand. But tonight we’re also looking at what UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, calls our Intangible Cultural Heritage. That includes oral traditions and expressions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, and traditional craftsmanship. An exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum until 16th February is focusing on what the organisation has selected as “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in China.

In “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, loosely based on a 1921 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Brad Pitt plays a character who is born with the physical appearance and condition of someone in his eighties, but who then gets physically younger throughout his life. The movie, which is directed by David Fincher, has been nominated for no less than thirteen Academy Awards. It’s been called a “meditation on mortality and time’s inexorable passage”. Our reviewer Gary Pollard felt it was rather too close to “Forrest Gump” for comfort.

We also feature the story of a mouse who takes a walk through a deep, dark wood and the mysterious beast he encounters. Now the deep, dark wood, the mouse, and the beast have all come to the Hong Kong stage in an adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s children’s book “The Gruffalo”.

Please click here to see a streaming video of the show.

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