Our wonderful contributor Alison Roberts-Tse visits The House of Dancing Water on her trip to Hong Kong.
Situated in the immaculate City of Dreams, the enchanting nature of The House of Dancing Water show comes as no surprise.
Since the grand premiere in 2010, The House of Dancing Water has continued to awe audiences from all over the world that make the trip to Macau in order to view this thrilling site-specific work.
The unique roundhouse stage, offering views from 270 degrees around, brings magical special effects to life as it rises, sinks, splits and sprouts fountains to accompany a love story that entwines elements that reflect Macanese culture and heritage. The performers deliver a dazzling spectacle, displaying a wide array of circus arts, that viewers of all backgrounds can enjoy.
As guests take their seats, a small boat slips back and forth across frothy water between the Eastern and Western world, alluding to the dual nature of Macau.
The performance opens with a Macanese fisherman slowly paddling his bamboo raft amongst the vibrant signs of modern day Macau. When an overhead airplane startles him, he topples into the river.
A shroud of mist envelops the stage and dissipates outward into the crowd, as an enormous junk rises from the water’s depths amidst a tumultuous storm.
The lightning flashes blind, accompanied by sharp cracks of thunder. The sky dumps gallons of water onto the fisherman, desperately clinging to the mast. Spectators in the first few rows of designated “splash seats” cling onto their rain ponchos, relieved and mystified.
The fisherman soon finds himself in the company of a pirate hoard. The motley crew fish themselves out of the water to leer at the audience before they assail the ship.
Eyes on the prize, the ferocious cast of men and women scramble into the water and claw up the masts before catapulting off, as the heavy downpour drenches them. Pirates fearlessly hurl themselves from the junk with impressive agility and synchronicity, eventually leaving the fisherman by himself.
From here, the whirlwind journey through a magic land with mystical characters is surprisingly reminiscent of The Nutcracker. The three main characters (the fisherman, the stranger and the princess) are aided and hindered by various factions, such as a troupe of jovial acrobats and a helmet-clad army that ultimately face off in a scene reminiscent of Chinese checkers.
Tracing the story through the choreography is about as clear (and obscure) as most ballet plot lines: the stranger helps to free the princess from the delightfully devilish Dark Queen and her not-so-competent crony.
Viewing the show as an Asian American, the casting of a Caucasian male as the love interest and hero of an Asian woman is tiresome, especially when the Asian male is relegated to sidekick. But during the more expressive dance narrative sections, the performers do play their characters well.
The House of Dancing Water show amazes with daring aerial work, dives from jaw-dropping heights, motorbike madness and cringe-worthy contortions.
Only a few performance segments display dance elements, such as the duet between the stranger and the princess. However, they are crafted beautifully with diaphanous water jets and rainbow lighting to enhance the dancers’ movement.
Overall, the enthralling drama and engaging theatricality at The House of Dancing Water make for a fantastic introduction to performance arts.