By Trista Yeung

Collaboration is always exciting in the eyes of dancer Ivy Tsui Yik-chit, who learned its significance in Finland two months ago. Together with dance artists Justyne Li Sze-yeung and Wayson Poon Wai-shun, Tsui joined a three-year residency exchange program organized by the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and three Finnish dance institutions: Dance Info Finland; Zodiak – Centre for New Dance; and Dance House Helsinki.

Named Creative Meeting Point: Hong Kong x Finland, the first step of the collaborative program requires the three local dance artists travel to Finland for two weeks to meet up with three Finnish artists, Carl Knif, Sari Palmgren and Linda Martikainen.

In the coming three years, the six will engage in a reciprocal residency exchange in both Helsinki and Hong Kong, and the period will work around major arts festivals and events in both cities.

The three Finns plan to come to the SAR next month for their next residency, when the Hong Kong Arts Festival and Art Basel will be held.

Tsui, who graduated from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts – majoring in ballet and modern dance – gained attention by winning the 2015 Young Artist (Dance) Award from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, for commissioning choreographic works such as Dehydrated Flower, Frangipani and Morning Glory.

She said the exchange program offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for artists to broaden their horizon and obtain firsthand experience on art trends in northern Europe.

“With the advancement of online and social platforms, it is not hard to have a rough idea about the art culture in other countries,” she said. “But if you can witness or even talk to the artists, you can know their art more comprehensively, such as how they connect with the audience, how they communicate among team members, and where they find inspiration.”

The artists took part in the ICE HOT international dance festival in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December, laying the foundation for future collaborations on Nordic dance. Since 2010, the festival has toured around five Nordic capitals every second year, giving performances and offstage presentations to international dance professionals.

As the program is specifically targeted at international dancers, artistic directors and organizers at festivals and theaters, it allows artists to expand their networks and discuss future collaborations. Some of the performances are also open to local audiences.

In addition to the artistic program, board discussions, workshops and networking forums will be organized for dance professionals from around the world.

“It is good for artists taking the initiative to reach out for potential buyers. Many artists fail to notice the importance of presenting themselves,” Tsui said. “But no one knows the work better than the artists themselves. Such a platform provides the perfect opportunities for us to learn the skills.”

One of the onstage performances – Meadow, meadow, meadow – stirred her emotions in the discussion of life and death. The choreography was a collaboration between Finnish choreographer-dancers Elina Pirinen and Maria Saivosalmi, Palestinian- French vocal and performance artist Jassem Hindi, and Irish theater artists Ruairi Donovan and Cathy Walsh.

With three scenes symbolizing different stages in life, the performance featured a combination of peculiar body movement, voices and landscapes.

“The piece started with tranquil music and slow body movement, but then the second scene gave a sudden turn, when the performers asked everyone in the audience to join them on stage,” Tsui said. “In order to imitate the chaos and disorder humans face in life, they passed out wine, encouraging the audience to dance or even take off their clothes. The dramatic arrangement was really intriguing.”

The performance also persuaded Tsui to work with artists from different sectors, as it helped inject innovative elements to enrich a performance. Although cross-city dance performances are still difficult for Hong Kong, she hopes more art collaboration can happen in different sectors.

“In Finland, artists do not mind sharing their ideas and techniques with each other, which makes artistic collaboration very common among them,” Tsui said. “More importantly, every member of the team will voice their opinion over the piece, allowing individuals to shine even in group performances.”