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The Upper House showcases collaborative artistic programme “Encounters Across Cultures”

Witness a virtual, artistic voyage across cities, exhibiting the discipline between dance and architecture at The Upper House. We speak to Clarissa Tam, Art Programmes Lead of Swire Hotels to learn more.

The House Collective — four hotels within four cities; The Upper House in Hong Kong, The Temple House in Chengdu, The Middle House in Shanghai and The Opposite House in Beijing — has launched an artistic programme titled “Encounters Across Cultures” to celebrate the beauty of dance. Each house will showcase different styles of movement comprising of ballet, hip-hop or contemporary dance.

Chapter One began at The Middle House and The Opposite House, presented to match the styles in architecture, paired with two contemporary dancers.  

“We chose contemporary dance as a highly expressive dance genre with the power to immediately engage and bring the audience into the journey,” says Clarissa Tam, Art Programmes Lead of Swire Hotels.

“Encounters Across Cultures” / The Upper House

Chapter Two launched in Hong Kong and Chengdu last month with a spotlight on ballet and hip-hop, respectively.  

“We chose to pair The Upper House with The Temple House because of the clear contrast between the two in architecture and culture. The Upper House embodies bright city lights high above the city, while The Temple House sits on old temple grounds with Qing dynasty courtyards still intact, celebrates the past history of Chengdu as well as its important place as a hub for contemporary street culture,” says Tam.

“The creative team came up with the idea of a parallel universe,” adds Patsy Lo, Curator and Producer. “Hennes Yuen [ballerina – Hong Kong] and Wan Siming [Hip Hop dancer – Chengdu] are two friends – envisioning themselves sharing their experiences in the two Houses together and at the same time – although they were never physically together. We wanted to create an encounter that travels beyond and through space, time and movements.”

“Encounters Across Cultures” / The Upper House

Why did The Upper House choose Ballet for Hong Kong? 

This year’s project is about an encounter between dance and architecture. We wanted to bring dance into the unique spaces of The House Collective as a response from a different artistic discipline to these places that we know and love. In the case of The Upper House, Andre Fu’s design of the House is distinct for its understated elegance and warm welcoming serenity. We felt ballet as a dance style epitomises elegance and grace — a wonderful way to complement and shine new light on The Upper House. Thanks to the Hong Kong Ballet, we were fortunate to have Ballet Master Yuh Egami join the project as choreographer and enlist ballerina Hennes Yuen to bring the vision to life. 

What is the inspiration for the outfits for Hong Kong and Chengdu? 

Although we had very contrasting dance genres at The Upper House and The Temple House, we wanted to find a way to establish a sense of relationship between the two dancers. Wardrobe needed to complement the storytelling and visual language, without getting in the way of dance movements. We were very fortunate to have the support of two wonderful labels SEAN SUEN and Shang Xia. In terms of the overall style, the ballerina was not dressed in the traditional ballet attire with tutus, but rather more contemporary yet with a nod to Asian influences, from Shang Xia. 

“Encounters Across Cultures” / The Upper House

How was the video compiled to form the exhibit? 

The video installation juxtaposes different scenes from The Upper House in Hong Kong and The Temple House in Chengdu together, taking the audience on a journey through two parallel universes — one with our ballerina Hennes in Hong Kong, the other with our hip-hop dancer Wan Siming in Chengdu.  

Although they are in separate locations, they are effectively sharing the same journey as they explore the Houses together. The choice of scenarios highlights shared architectural motifs that connect Hong Kong and Chengdu together in unexpected ways, while of course that juxtaposition also celebrates the differences between them (just as the difference in dance styles also does). The idea is that difference and distance do not have to separate us: it is possible to reach out and connect across boundaries. 


The showcase will be available for viewing through till 14 November. 

Tanya Parmanand

Despite pursuing a career in Law, Tanya has always been interested in journalism seen by writing on social activism, lifestyle and culture in Hong Kong. If she’s not writing or in court, you can catch her reading the latest book on her Kindle whilst sipping her latest matcha latte find.

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