In our #culturalportraits series, we intend to present the different players of the artistic and cultural scene, from artists and performers to events or exhibitions’ organisers, from art and culture advocates to those behind the curtain, handling the logistic or the technique, among others.
On the occasion of the Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels Festival in Hong Kong (5 – 21 May), presented in collaboration with the French May Arts Festival in various venues across the city, we met with Serge Laurent, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Director of Dance and Culture Programme.
After twenty years spent at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Serge Laurent has been in charge of the Dance and Culture Programme at Van Cleef & Arpels since 2019. He shared with us his insight into the long-established bond between the Maison and the world of dance, as well as the mission of the initiative Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels, and the collaborative creative process it takes to organise such a comprehensive and diverse festival.
A devotee of dance since its foundation in 1906, Van Cleef & Arpels has proven a dedicated custodian and proponent of the medium, and one the Maison has repeatedly turned to for inspiration when creating its high-jewellery creations.
As explained by Serge Laurent, “Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels is the continuation of a very long and strong relationship between the Maison of fine jewellery and the world of dance. Initially a source of inspiration for the creations, meetings with choreographers such as George Balanchine in the 1960s and, more recently, with Benjamin Millepied, have created a very strong bond”.
By launching the initiative Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels in 2020, Nicolas Bos, President of Van Cleef & Arpels, wanted to reinforce the dedication of the Maison to an art form that is both part of its history and a visionary artistic discipline which is perpetually evolving.
“We wanted to create a programme based on three essential values that we share with the choreographic art: creation, transmission, and education. Our support is therefore directed towards creation, but also towards the presentation of important works from the contemporary heritage, and we are also committed to educational programs to facilitate access to choreographic works. (…) We provide financial support to dance companies to create new works. We work also with institutions for the presentation of dance and education programmes. Our desire is to support both the artists and the institutions. Dance Reflections is a curatorial and a sponsorship programme”.
For the Maison, it has always been crucial to be engaged with its partners and to share an artistic vision enabling dance to be more accessible. In addition to its year-round support to dance companies and institutions, Van Cleef & Arpels also wanted to organise annual choreographic events in collaboration with its partners, which gave rise to the concept of Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels Festival. 2022 saw the first edition take place in London, at Sadler’s Well, the Royal Opera House and the Tate, offering a panorama of dance from the 1970s to this day.
Hong Kong as the location of the second edition of the Festival was evident for the Maison, especially through its long-term collaboration with the French May Arts Festival.
“After London, we chose Hong Kong because we had already started a collaboration with the French May Arts Festival before the pandemic and we wanted to continue this collaboration. Moreover, I had the opportunity in the past to come several times to Hong Kong, and I am very sensitive to the cultural dynamism of this fascinating city, a link between Asia and the West”, recalled Laurent.
The Hong Kong edition of the festival presents nine cutting-edge original pieces and leading repertory productions from a selection of international choreographers and dancers, as well as workshops and a film screening, in eminent institutional stages and public spaces across the city.
The choice of diverse venues was thought as an opportunity to meet the public in a different and less formal way and is a fruition empowered by the dialogue and collaboration between Van Cleef & Arpels and local institutions, such as Freespace, Great Lawn Art Park WKCD, Kwai Tsing Theatre, M+, PMQ, Sheung Wan Civic Centre, and The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
“For Hong Kong, I wanted to give an overview of the creativity and diversity of contemporary dance. Dance is a field of investigation and research of such richness that it is important to be able to make the public feel it. Dance is also an art of space. Choreographers produce works for the theater stage, but also for other categories of spaces that inspire them. Contemporary dance has an historical relationship with visual arts, and museums and galleries are places that choreographers regularly use. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to present the work of Ola Maciejewska at M+ and that of Noé Soulier at PMQ. Some works created for the public space can naturally adapt and reinvent themselves according to the area, which leaves great freedom to artists who like to confront spaces by also integrating their constraints. This is the case for Rachid Ouramdane‘s work Les Traceurs, which is presented at the Art Park of West Kowloon Cultural District”, pointed out Serge Laurent.
One of the specificities of the festival is also to offer workshops with choreographers which are open to amateurs, providing a unique and rare experience to discover dance, and to set up residencies for professional local dancers. For instance, the residency led by French choreographer Christian Rizzo with dancers from Hong Kong was made possible thanks to a collaboration with The Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts.
While the Festival is still ongoing, there have already been moments of emotions and grace, as well as challenges and behind-the-scene stories.
“There was an unexpected thing that I found very beautiful. At the second performance of Passages by Noé Soulier at PMQ, there was a very big storm and thunder that created a very strong atmosphere for the public and the dancers in this open space on the city”, recalls Serge Laurent.
Finally, Serge Laurent was able to disclose that the next edition will take place in New York in October 2023, and that it will come back to Asia afterwards.
More details on Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels can be found on the link here.
You can also read our feature+ on the festival highlights: Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels Celebrates Contemporary Dance in Hong Kong.