Artistic Director: Kimho Ip
Film: Matt Brown
Synergy Director: William Wong
Choreographers: Anne-Marie Culhane,
Tai-Chi: Bob Lowey
(Seven Stars School of Taijiquan)
Music: FOUND / Shi Yan / Kimho Ip
CONCEPTION of CATHAY HOUSE BLEND
by Kimho Ip and William Wong
Cathay House Blend may sound like a new brand of herbal infusion; or even coffee. On Saturday, 18th November, the Hawthornden Court within the National Museum of Scotland becomes an imaginary teahouse with distinctive sounds and movement, live music and tai chi sequences.
As in a European café, artists, intellectuals and communities in China traditionally meet at a teahouse to share and debate ideas. Chinese Teahouse culture provides the inspirations for this inter-cultural event to celebrate Chinese traditions and introduce contemporary performing art forms to reflect the convergence of western and Chinese arts today.
Not all tea is served with milk. A traditional Chinese Erhu tune played on top of an electronic groove does not create contemporary fusion in itself. The different styles of expressions by musicians and dancers could coexist to create an organic improvisation. Cathay House Blend is an inter-cultural production that avoids the usual cliché of fusion. It doesn’t compromise but reconcile.
Experience in working with the Scottish Chinese community is incorporated in this commissioned piece. For the younger generations, practicing tai chi, indulgence at the mahjong table, or playing the Yangchin and Erhu are activities associated with their parents’ generation. The re-discovery of heritage and search for identity is often hit and miss.
This piece was not conceived as a play initially, hence without a script. The greatest challenge to realise the vision of turning a five-storey high museum foyer into a make-believe tea house without an elaborate set lies in creating a sensory experience for the audience who may just be passing by, with no prior knowledge of the site-specific performance.
The Chinese title of Cathay House Blend refers to a prosperous, peaceful and vibrant life. The journey in search of an imaginary space, where cultures of the East and West truly interact, takes us to some references from 1930’s Shanghai that symbolised “East meets West”. The reality of the world at that time was, however, far from being peaceful and vibrant. For many Chinese people, playing mahjong lets you escape from reality in the heat of the game. Tea restores sanity and offers comfort, even for just a moment.