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10 Stupid Questions (6th wise interviewee) creative/ choreographer/ dancer Yuri Ng

1. What do you think is the relationship between dance and sex?

4. What is the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard?

7. Do you think committing suicide is morally wrong?

The reason I wrote my first dance review is because I felt, for the first time, a sense of urgency in me: I wanted to record a live performance. If I am to thank any one person for this, it has to be Yuri Ng. My first dance review is on his work Love on Sale (2008), published in Muse Magazine.

‘Subvert’, ‘defies easy definition’, ‘transgression’ and ‘questions’ are words from my first review. They are in fact applicable to any works by Yuri. I am able to see more in Yuri’s works than other local creations. As a creative, Yuri is by default rebellious and hence his works are usually captivating. I can also see his sentiments and doubts towards certain classics, cultures, people and things.

Yet, talking to him, I sometimes doubt if I truly understand him. For he follows his own logic when he thinks. Gradually, I realised his digression and deviation are originated from his openness. There are no absolute rights and wrongs in his world. Therefore, he must keep retorting, “why not?”

(This interview was conducted in Cantonese. Below is the English translation.)

1. What do you think is the relationship between dance and sex?

[after 10 seconds of thought] Both make use of the body, or are related to the body. Sex is an enjoyment of which you believe very much in the present moment. So is dance, definitely. Just that the body parts… actually even the body parts [used] are irrelevant. For these two points, I think they’re closely related. Why do some people find flaunting one’s body lewd and hence inappropriate? That’s why people in the past forbade dancing. The thing is… [dancing] exposes something very personal and… very vulnerable.

Some find having sex and making love two entire different things. Sex can be very technical. So is dance. Dancers move their limbs in a way that gives an impression of being really deft (technical). Isn’t it very physical? It is. If you consider [those movements] as dance, then sex is (as technical as) dance. If you say making love is something else, then tell me what’s the difference between [making] love and having sex. This is to say the difference between dance and [mechanical] movement.

2. If you had a son, would you let him learn ballet at a very young age?

‘Let him’? I think the key is ‘whether to let him’, rather than to learn ballet. […] If you are saying ‘if I’d let him’, that means there are times I wouldn’t let him, that means I’m making a choice. I think [it’s about] if I’d like to make the choice [for another person]. Only that this ‘another person’ happens to be my son. Does that mean I should control my son? Does that mean I should control my parents when they are old and unable to make choices? Are we to assume they can no longer make choices. [pause] But I’d encourage every one, every child […] When they have never encountered such thing, I’d encourage them: take a look, have a go, try it. Well then, they keys after this is the ‘when’ ‘where’ and ‘how’ to let them taste it. When you recommend a show to your friends, you are in fact telling them, “this is something interesting but there is no guarantee”. You want to share with them something that made you feel satisfied, happy, proud and emotional. You want to share it with someone you care. […] But there is no guarantee. It doesn’t mean you’d like, or even succeed in, dancing when you encounter it. So all these are sharing, not obligation. I don’t think I need to make this decision for [my son].

3. What is most daring thing you’ve ever done?

[still eating his pomelo] Daring— do you mean in retrospect? Er… yes. Which means I didn’t think about it that much at the time, but later I’d be like: “wow, I did that?!”. In that sort of sense? Yes, either [in retrospect or not] is fine. That’s quite interesting, as this depends very much on one’s personal values and views. Certainly, certainly.

‘Daring’ is usually thought to be something to do with risks. But does making a decision mean at once taking a risk? Is there the consciousness of taking a risk? [pauses for 10 seconds] Maybe my first sexual experience is a very daring thing. Is that what you thought at the time, or in retrospect? In retrospect. [still chewing his pomelo] Because it’s a stranger. Do you mind telling when it was? Years ago. I was studying in the UK […] secondary school […] 16 years old. So it’s an impulse to approach this stranger to… It’s a pickup. […] At a market. That’s something… I guess when you’re a teenager and don’t have [that kind of experience], yet you know there is something like ‘an urge’… It seems this person […] somehow, somehow you anticipated that would lead to something sexual. Very mysterious. I allowed it to happen. […] When I look back now, it’s actually very daring. There was no protection and I had no knowledge. […] It’s not like ‘I know what I’m doing’. […] It’s pure luck that nothing unfortunate happened. […] But then when you take a risk, why always having so many concerns? Were you scared at that time? [certain] Not at all!

4. What is the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard?

[after some thought] Why can’t I remember? […] [I remember] what I’ve said [to others]. I find it quite romantic: “I can look at you like this for my entire life”. I find it very romantic. The romance of it isn’t about lasting forever but [having such thought in] a split second. […] You believe in it and you can speak it out. I think it’s very romantic.

Why can’t I recall what [romantic things] others said to me? [two seconds later] Ah! Something in the same vein. I remember this: “I can hold your hand until dawn (tomorrow morning).” […] That ‘tomorrow morning’ is like ‘entire life’. You don’t even spare a thought… tomorrow comes or not, it doesn’t matter. Very romantic, huh? And in Chinese, it’s an exaggeration. “Holding your hand until tomorrow morning” doesn’t have to be taken literally [, it’s more like an indefinite future time] … That’s right. It sounds like that. Besides, you were sitting [with that person] chatting happily… In the small hours in the dark, you could regard ‘until tomorrow morning’ as… [emphatically] eternity! […] It’s not that the person promised anything. Those words… [suddenly] Ah! It’s as if we’re in control of time. […] When you’re in control of time, you can imagine how great, how far and how infinite it is. […] However jaded we are now, there are some moments, you think can last forever.

5. Under what circumstances, you would lie?

[peeling off his pomelo and eating it] Lie? [serious] I don’t really lie. […] In fact, people who lie are not actually lying. Since it is the recipient who is able to make the judgment. […] If I could say those words, I surely believe it as truth. Otherwise, I wouldn’t say them. But what if that person intentionally lies to you? Well, it is ‘that person’. As you said ‘that person’, it’s you who are judging if what he has said is deceptive. It’s your disbelief that makes his words a lie. Uh-huh. When I lie to you, I surely see it as truth. Why would I call it ‘a lie’? […] If you don’t believe it, you’d categorise it as ‘a lie’. Of course, stupid people wouldn’t believe what they’re saying. Then they’re lying to you. But that’s really stupid. […] Following this way of thinking, how would you explain self-deception? When it’s called ‘self-deception’, you surely have to believe it to say it! So it’s believing too? Of course!

The biggest [lie] you’ve ever- [suddenly assertive] All ballet performances are a lie. You go [onto the stage]… [describing with gestures] “Ah, the king and the queen…” All these all lies. It’s very pretentious, but ‘pretentious’ is not a derogatory term. You put up something for others [to see], to hear. These are the king and the queen. “Oh, you are so beautiful tonight…” You believe that at that moment, but at the same time you know better because you are very conscious that that is not real. […] They are lies. But the beauty of it is in these lies. [keep peeling off his pomelo] Oh that’s bad, people wouldn’t be happy with what I’ve just said. Don’t care about it. Just give your answers first. Of course, I won’t care. *

* This interview was intended to be first published in a local dance publication, but eventually didn’t happen.

6. Which is your favourite body part?

I won’t give you an answer like this: “my brain”, or “my heart”. I won’t be so vulgar as to say it’s my penis. Neither will I say: “my eyes”. […] Hair […] isn’t mine; it’s stylised. Hmm… favourite? There isn’t a favourite. I suppose some assume I like my feet. In many’s eyes, my feet look great. But if I agree with them, it’s a little… vain. So I won’t say that. If I say it’s my waist… I should say I try to like my waist and that it’s that thick. I try to accept myself at this age. […] I hope to make it my favourite part— my thickening waist.

7. Do you think committing suicide is morally wrong?

No. Why? To be able to be in control of something this significant, I don’t think it’s morally incorrect. It’s like whether I am [to become] a vegetarian. It’s my own body. I want to be a vegetarian. I wouldn’t do you any harm. I eat vegetables and I’m not even eating them from your plate. So, how can it be morally wrong? [Committing suicide,] I’ll upset people because they can’t bear my departure. Or I’ll infuriate some people, as I haven’t completed my responsibilities. That’s another issue. Since I don’t think we live for others, even if they are your parents. We can feel grateful to them. We can feel apologetic about affecting others if we are to commit suicide. But all these are how you think others would see you to [choose whether to] make this decision. Then it’d be like wearing my clothes and my hair for others. [Committing suicide] is not wrong, not entirely wrong.

8. Which animal can represent you most?

[peeling off his pomelo] Animal? [pause] Now? Actually, I never think any animals can represent me. Because I can answer questions candidly. I don’t need to borrow an [analogy] of an animal. [Winnie chuckles] As you will have to ask the reasons. But if I must answer the question… perhaps a cockroach. I think I can survive quite well. I think that sort of… mutation. I can mutate according to the environment, which I think is quite interesting. […] But the curious thing is, I’d smash cockroaches. You’d smash them to death? Is this out of jealousy?

9. What is the most embarrassing situation ever in your life?

Embarrassing? There’re a couple of incidents come to mind… but the most embarrassing situation, right? [pause] ‘Embarrassing’— meaning it has to do with how I perceive myself… which means being very insecure… I think my life before 35 had been very embarrassing, meaning… as if I did everything with… lots of… apprehension. I worried about how others saw me— in every bit of my life. I guess it’s not 35, but before 40… the situation has improved over these few years.

10. A question you want to ask yourself — even if you can’t answer it.

How long want to live? ‘Want to’? Your question implies that you could… consciously end… It implies several things. First, yes, as you said, it implies [I could choose] how to end and how I should manage my limited time. It means seeing it as limited, as if tomorrow won’t come. […] When there is only one year, I’d finish the things I promised properly. Or… if there’re 10 years, how I'd plan them so that people around me can… can reunite more? Hence, it implies a sense of helplessness in the face of time. Since you really have no idea, you seem to be on your guard every single moment. I think I’m pretty much at peace with it.

‘Living in the moment… living in the moment…’ There’re a few days I seemed to have understand these few words: Oh, that’s how they mean. Then I could let go of certain… certain frames of mind. Then I could lively properly… I guess.

I suppose I needn’t ask Yuri ten more questions. During the interview, he had constantly (and earnestly) been countering my questions. I wanted to chuckle but held it. He is like that. He is just being serious. So serious that he would take the trouble to question the questions. How about letting him ask me instead?

Yuri’s 10 Dance-related Questions for Me (as audience)

1. How come audience would find comprehending [a dance performance] so important? I’m not to assume everyone would like to be able to comprehend, but why we always hear people say, ‘I don’t understand [a] ballet [piece]’, or ‘I don’t understand [a] dance [work]’ and then [they] stop there? It’s as if that’s a description or a reflection of what you just saw: ‘I don’t get it’.

2. What kind of dance would you like to see in Hong Kong?

3. What do you think young creatives nowadays need most?

4. What do you think is the value of classical ballet that justifies its existence?

5. What is your opinion of [Artistic Director of City Contemporary Dance Company] Willy Tsao?

6. If, Winnie, [the love of your life] said he would like to dance with you, how would you prepare yourself?

7. How would you create a dance [that represents] Hong Kong?

8. How can Hong Kong’s ballet be developed?

9. Can you define ‘what is dance’— especially when everyone doesn’t consider that ‘dance’?

10. Do we dance after death?

**As the answers are too long, they are published in separate entries and are only available in Cantonese.

first published on muse blog on 9 aug 2013

the unspoken

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