Thematic Talks

23-27 JUNE


Thematic Talk 1 - Dr CHEUNG Ping-kuen & Ms Naomi CHUNG

Programme Strategies and the Conservation of Cultural Heritage: A Case Study of the Tea House Theatre

23 June 15:00 (Xiqu Centre)

In 2009, Cantonese opera was officially inscribed onto the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and became Hong Kong’s first item of intangible cultural heritage. The Xiqu Centre opened in 2019, and its Tea House Theatre plays a distinctive role in cultural preservation. The venue not only recreates the traditional tea house setting where Cantonese opera is performed, but it also presents specially designed programmes featuring various forms of operatic performances, including nanyin (southern tunes), paizi tunes, Cantonese opera singing, opera excerpts, and ensembles. Narration is included in the performances to immerse both local and international audiences in the world of Cantonese opera. Furthermore, the Tea House Theatre is a venue for nurturing emerging performers and showcasing original works, as the integration of new technologies helps attract new audiences. This case study will use the Tea House Theatre as an example to share insights on preserving Cantonese opera culture from the perspectives of venue and programme planning.

Dr CHEUNG Ping-kuen

Having taken part in the local theatre arts since early 1970s, Dr Cheung Ping-kuen is a playwright, a director, an actor, a dramaturg and most continuously, a theatre researcher and critic for more than half a century. He has written numerous theatre critiques and edited publications on theatre. He is the Chairman of International Association of Theatre Critics (Hong Kong).

Cheung was elected by the arts community and appointed by the government as a member of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council between 1996 and 2007, during which he served as the Chairman of Drama Committee and the Chairman of Arts Support Committee. He was the founding Chairman of the Hong Kong Drama/Theatre and Education Forum and the Co-Director of the 6th IDEA World Congress 2007. In 2002, Cheung was awarded the Medal of Honour by the Government of Hong Kong SAR in recognition of his contribution to the development of drama arts.

Cheung was the Head of Liberal Arts Studies of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts between 2003 and 2015. He helped establish the School of Chinese Opera and being the Acting Chair for one year. He teaches part-time for the Academy after his retirement.

Ms Naomi CHUNG

Naomi CHUNG is a member of the China Theatre Association. She is currently the Head of Xiqu, Performing Arts of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) and the director of xiqu programmes. Graduated from California Institute of the Arts with an MFA in Lighting Design, Chung received the Best Lighting Design Award at the 6th Hong Kong Drama Awards presented by the Hong Kong Federation of Drama Societies.

Naomi Chung joined the WKCDA in October 2011. Since then, she has produced a number of event and cultural exchange programmes, including the West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre (2012, 2013, 2014), Freespace Fest (2012), the Xiqu Centre Seminar Series, Rising Stars of Cantonese Opera (4 episodes in 2015-2017) and The Ghost Seller & His Butterflies. The productions of the Experimental Cantonese opera Farewell My Concubine (New Adaptation) and Wenguang Explores the Valley, toured to Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei, Seoul and many other cities.

In 2016, Chung travelled to Beijing on an exchange programme to work as assistant director for the China National Peking Opera Company’s Dawn at the Forbidden City. In 2017, Chung produced The Reincarnation of Red Plum for the grand opening of the Xiqu Centre. In 2017, Chung invited the Experimental Theatre of Liyuan Opera of Fujian, the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe, the Shanghai Jingju Theatre Company and the Shanghai Huaiju Troupe to perform in Hong Kong as part of the WKCDA’s Experimental Chinese Opera Series. She is the founding curator of the WKCDA’s Black Box Chinese Opera Festival.

In 2024, she will present the first collaboration with Chongqing Chuanju Theatre for a new creation of experimental Chuanju theatre work of Farewell My Concubine.

Thematic Talk 2 - Dr SHAO Xiaojie

The Strategies and Challenges of Establishing “Memory of the World: Chinese Traditional Music Sound Archives”

24 June 16:00 (LT)

The Chinese Traditional Music Sound Archives were among the first inscriptions on the Memory of the World Register made in 1997. They were the first archives from China selected for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register and the world’s first sound archives inscribed on the register. From content and category, research and collection, to preservation and distribution, these archives remain a rare example of their kind. Since the start of the digital era, there have been unprecedented challenges for the digital archiving of these archives. In the field of digital humanities, the “Chinese Traditional Music Sound Archives” data platform establishes the academic attributes of resources and restores past sounds. It seeks to present relevant historical information and its manifestation in culture, and it points to the concept of sharing and co-creation. It is a quest to preserve the diversity of traditional Chinese music culture, popularise knowledge of traditional music, and pass on and propagate traditional music culture.

Dr SHAO Xiaojie

Dr Shao Xiaojie is a researcher and associate director of Library of Chinese National Academy of Arts. Her research specialises in the history of ancient Chinese music, music archaeology, Chu music culture, and the collection and utilisation of music archives. She is the author of Research on the Chu Bell and Research on Chu Musical Instruments (2018 National Publishing Fund projects), and Music Archaeology—Theory and Information Compilation. She is the chief editor or executive editor of Capital Music from the Zhihua Temple and the Commemoration Catalogue for the 120th Anniversary of Mr Yang Yinliu’s Birth. She is a member of the editorial board for Chinese Music Artifacts, and deputy editor and executive editor of Chinese Music Artifacts II · Hebei. She is a commissioning editor of Guqin—The Incredible Instrument of Silk and Wood (1950-1970), a winner of The Fifth Chinese Publishing Government Book Award. She has published more than 40 academic essays. She is the translator of Vocal Workouts for the Contemporary Singer (Berklee College of Music: Method Book).

Thematic Talk 3 - Mr YANG Yuntao

From Documenting Movement to Performance: A Case Study of Hong Kong Dance Company’s Convergence

25 June 14:30 (LT)

In 2018, Hong Kong Dance Company artistic director Yang Yuntao and a group of dancers embarked on a three-year interdisciplinary arts research project. They studied Southern Chinese martial arts under the guidance of martial arts instructors, discovering new perspectives on movement and the fluidity of expression between Eastern ideology and physical gesture, and exploring the essence of Chinese dance and Southern Chinese martial arts. Through documenting, studying, and arranging movements and movement patterns of the body, they incorporated elements of the traditional practices into the company’s works. In his presentation, Yang will speak about the company’s initiative in conducting choreographic documentation and research study on Chinese dance and martial arts; he will outline the objectives of the research study and examine the use of documentation as a method, discussing the value and extension of documentation in the performing arts. He will also demonstrate the tools and techniques used in the documentation process and discuss what has been recorded, including the process of physical training and the dancers’ first-hand observations and insights. Further, he will elaborate on how these materials are used for review and reference after being archived. They help dancers to develop a deeper grasp of the form, techniques and artistry of martial arts, leading them to a better understanding of the changes, limits, and possibilities of the body, prompting them to instil their insights into their creative works and share them with their industry peers.

Mr YANG Yuntao

Winner of two Hong Kong Dance Awards (2003, 2006) for his outstanding dance performance, and awarded Best Artist (Dance) at the Hong Kong Arts Development Awards 2009, Mr Yang Yuntao is an accomplished dancer and choreographer. He joined the Hong Kong Dance Company (HKDC) in 2002 as Principal Dancer. He was the company's Assistant Artistic Director from 2007 and has been its Artistic Director since November 2013.

Yang has choreographed for various dance companies. His award-winning choreography for HKDC includes: Spring Ritual·Eulogy , winner of Outstanding Achievement in Production at the Hong Kong Dance Awards 2013 and presented in Beijing and Taipei in 2013; The Legend of Mulan, winner of Outstanding Production and Outstanding Ensemble Performance at the 2014 Hong Kong Dance Awards and presented in New York, Sydney, London and Minsk in 2015, 2017 and 2019 respectively; Storm Clouds, winner of three awards including Outstanding Achievement in Production at the 2015 Hong Kong Dance Awards; L’Amour Immortel, winner of three awards at the 2016 Hong Kong Dance Awards, presented in Beijing and Guangzhou in 2017, in Taipei in 2018 and in Shanghai and Hangzhou in 2019; and Waiting Heart, winner of Outstanding Medium Venue Production at the 2019 Hong Kong Dance Award.

Photo Credit: Worldwide Dancer Project
Photo Courtesy of Hong Kong Dance Company

Thematic Talk 4 - Ms Jenny MOK

Documenting Theatre with Documentary Theatre: A Case Study of The Pedra Sidequel

25 June 15:00 (LT)

The Pedra Sidequel premiered in 2017, marking the 21st anniversary of the founding of Macau’s performing arts group Comuna de Pedra. It was directed by Hong Kong choreographer Dick Wong. The group’s president, Jenny, invited Dick to collaborate in a bid to bring new sparks to the work. The connection they developed ran far beyond the performance that lasted just over an hour. In 2016, one year before the premiere, Dick attended The Moment, Comuna de Pedra’s 20th anniversary performance. He also received a copy of the group’s 20th anniversary booklet, Pedra Anchorage – 20 Years of Comuna de Pedra, containing a timeline of the group’s milestones over the past two decades. Looking at the list of hard facts reminded Dick of 0382, a piece he directed for Zuni Icosahedron several years prior. He felt the format could be adapted for a new creation featuring three second-generation members of Comuna de Pedra. While the timeline of hard facts is the official story, what is tangible and varies by individuals is the sidequel. Be it the 2017 premiere featuring three performers or the 2022 solo staged reading, the work juxtaposes, examines and reconciles the relationships between the group, the individual, and society. However, the reconciliation regarding time, history, and personal struggles, and the reconciliation between individuals, time and events all occur offstage, bearing witness to the power of theatre.

Ms Jenny MOK

Jenny Mok Sin-teng is a director, actor, and the president of Comuna de Pedra. She is also the founder and artistic director of Todos Fest!.

She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Hong Kong. She is a graduate of École LASSAAD - International School of Theatre in Brussels, Belgium. In 2007, she graduated from the University of Macau, majoring in English. Since her first experience with performing arts at the age of 17, she has been active in the field with a particular interest in cross-cultural productions. She has collaborated with various local and overseas theatre groups and has directed and performed overseas a number of times, including in Hong Kong, Beijing, Nanjing, Taiwan, Thailand, France, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Brazil and more. In 2021, she founded Macau’s first inclusive arts festival Todos Fest!. In 2014, her directorial work The Mute Quire won Best International Performance at the Galway Fringe Festival in Ireland. She worked as the director of the opening of Parade through Macao, Latin City. Since 2006, she has directed and written more than 30 works.

Thematic Talk 5 - Ms MA Yanling

Dynamizing the Archive through Documentation, Creation and Promotion: A Case Study of Centre 42 Singapore

26 June 14:30 (LT)

The C42 Archive of Singapore was started 10 years ago, conceived as a publicly-accessible digital resource of all matters related to Singapore theatre. Artefacts and materials included information, and visual and audio artefacts dating back to the 1960s when contemporary theatre was first recorded in Singapore. Its objective is to give users an impression or overview of the trends and developments in Singapore theatre history, from which they can spring board towards further exploration of their own investigation available in the network of other archives.

Yet, the C42 Archive cannot stand only as a research and educational resource, it must be a living resource for artists to learn, reflect and create from and contribute back to. Centre 42’s flagship programme – The Vault – is one that aims to activate and dynamise this archive by inviting artists to respond critically and personally to Singapore theatre history and/or specific work(s). Through their research and inquisition, artists manifest and present contemporary performance responses to a current audience. The newly created works bridge the conversations of the present/future with the past and begin to get audiences to revisit the history, the archive and the contextual discourse of performance-making of the original works.

In the span of a decade, Centre 42 has presented 30 performance-responses of diverse forms and artistic motivations, covering different facets of Singapore theatre histories and themes. In this thematic talk, a few notable works from the Vault will be shared, to illustrate the methodology and outcomes of this programme and Centre 42’s overall model of documentation, creation and promotion of theatre and its archive.

Visit the C42 Archive at

Ms MA Yanling

MA Yanling is the current General Manager at Centre 42, a non-profit Singapore-based theatre development space. Since the Centre’s establishment in 2014, Yanling has steered and produced many of its artist residencies and platforms for new writing and dramaturgy development. She continues to lead the administration and advocacy of Centre 42’s digital theatre archive as a core of the organisation’s work, as well as the facilitation of the Asian Dramaturgs’ Network’s operations. Yanling is also a contemporary dance performer, and has most recently performed in Angel Island by Brian Gothong Tan (SG) and Huang Ruo (China/USA), a commission by the Singapore International Festival of Arts in 2023.

Photo Credit: Crispian Chan

Thematic Talk 6 - Ms CHOW Ling-Chih

Exploring History from a Future Perspective—archival reading and curatorial consciousness in “Dialectic”, a NTCH’s 35th anniversary series

26 June 15:00 (LT)

Beginning with its form, the memory of art presents an intriguing dialectic. Cross-disciplinary archives have an important place in contemporary creative practice, where artistic formats are utilised to transform and interpret knowledge in a new light, creating through performance works of art that are subsequently archived. On the other hand, contemporary art documents are the results of recognising, analysing, extending, defining, and questioning an artwork in terms of its artistic quality and position. It is an act of retrieving from a plethora of information what is worth recording at the moment and giving it a particular format of presentation. Alternatively, it is an act of constructing the history of an artwork. Through cross-reconstruction, new archival content and framework is created; it generates meaning as a dialogue in the present, and it embodies both a duty and a response to history.

Works of art are, by nature, art. However, they can be turned into archives, and they can be reproduced in parts as documents and installations where certain elements of their original formats are lost, such as the liveness of a performance that is born of the interactions between theatre space, actors, sound and lighting. It is an essential aesthetic attribute of the performing arts. When a work is reproduced or recreated as an art document, it illuminates what is distorted and lost. Curiously, the unique ephemerality of the performing arts is given an opportunity to manifest itself through documentation in a way that is detached from the temporality of the performance, and it acquires a covertness that stems from the state of being non-present and incomplete. This opens up an important perspective for rethinking art documents, particularly performing arts documents.

However, when turning an artwork into archival material, there is the risk of exalting or diminishing the intrinsic quality of the work. It lends a legendary dimension to the work while extinguishing its aura; the legendary is born as the aura is destroyed. This points to the lure of, and danger in, approaching an archive—an entity bound by limits in terms of materiality and definition—at the levels of interpretation and making associations. In this sense, revisiting the archive is an act of questioning and a discussion on form and the life of art. The more we probe into an archive, the more we are beguiled by its elusiveness. The archive is illuminated against what is missing and forgotten, as it calls forth further connections and mutual enrichment. In art documents, we look for possible ways to examine history and the reader’s consciousness; it allows us to ponder how things work and what is forgotten in the documents, and where vocabulary and meaning fall short or become crystalised. It is also an exploration into how documents may be autonomous and inter-related at the same time.

Ms CHOW Ling-Chih

Chow is a curator, art critic, dramaturg, writer, and lecturer in aesthetics and creative practice. She is a part-time assistant professor at the Department of Theatrical Design and Technology and School of Dance at the Taipei National University of the Arts. She coordinates projects for books and magazines and organises talks and workshops. She has participated in various arts festivals, exhibitions, performing arts creations, and research projects of different teams and institutions.

In recent years, she has served as the curator of the anniversary celebrations of the Tainan Municipal Cultural Center in 2023 and 2024; consultant and creative workshop organiser and instructor of “Circus” for the Taipei Performing Arts Center in 2022 and 2023; curator of “Dialectical” for the 35th anniversary of the National Theater and Concert Hall in 2022; curator of the Tainan Arts Festival in 2019 and 2020; curator of “Metamorphosis of Time” for the Songshan Creative and Culture Park Lab in 2018; research coordinator of “Dancing in Autumn” for the National Theater and Concert Hall in 2017; consultant of “Innovation Series Dance” for the National Theater and Concert Hall in 2018; and curator of The Story of Keelung – “Berth” and “Guesthouse of Tide Hearing” in 2017 and 2018.

Photo: Shen Sheng-Syun

  • All time references are Hong Kong time
  • LT = Lecture Theatre (CYT LT1A)