The Way We Keep Dancing
狂舞派3 (Kwong Mou Pai 3)
Hong Kong, 2021, 128’, Cantonese
Directed by: Adam Wong
Script: Adam Wong
Photography (color): Karl Tam
Editing: Mary Stephen, Adam Wong
Art Direction: Irving Cheung
Music: Day Tai
Producers: Saville Chan, Jacqueline Liu
Production Company: Golden Scene Company Limited
Cast: Cherry Ngan (Hana), BabyJohn Choi (Leung), Lokman Yeung (Dave), Lydia Lau (Milk Tea), Heyo (Heyo), Leander Lau (Kai), Afuc (Afuc), Tasha Lyia (Tasha), Bobby Lam (Panda), Popper 88 (Popper 88), Yau Hawk-sau (reporter), Ho Kar-lai (Heyo's mother), Ng Siu-hin (Heyo’s brother), Tommy “Guns” Ly (Stormy)
Date of First Release in Territory: February 18th, 2021
When The Way We Dance hit cinemas in 2013, the film’s energy, upbeat vibes and cast of enthusiastic cinema newbies handily pulled in crowds. Building on that success, director Adam Wong offers a sequel in The Way We Keep Dancing but turns his attention to bigger material than the earlier duelling dance teams plot.
This time his young players emerge onscreen as minor celebrities, introduced as they promote their new movie The Way They Dance 2 (hence this film’s part-three Chinese title). Actress and dancer Hana (Cherry Ngan) is becoming a reluctant star while finishing her studies, Dave (Lokman Leung) is doggedly pursuing his dance dreams and Leung (BabyJohn Choi) is busy with online influencer work, and their pal Heyo (Heyo) is dallying with mainstream success as a rapper. But tension arrives as they and the rest of their crew are asked to promote an urban renewal project.
The city’s Urban Planning Board has a snazzy plan to rebrand part of a Kowloon industrial area as Dance Street, plus throw in a park as a place for graffiti, breakdancing and more. And the trendsetters from The Way We Dance 2 would be perfect to promote it. The snag is that the project could further squeeze out the Kowloon industrial district artists (KIDA) community, which rents units in run-down industrial buildings for dance studios, band rooms and more. Warnings are sounded (“This is sugar coating for the developers, right?” asks a jaded graffiti artist), yet the troupe sign on anyway and soon find more trouble than they’d expected.
While Adam Wong’s 2013 feature focused on dance thrills and youth drama in an exuberant pop picture, the new film has a more ambitious, wide-ranging approach. The Way We Keep Dancing in particular builds up a sense of place and community in Kowloon’s Kwun Tong area. The precarious nature of the movie’s creative cluster is seen with officials’ raids on buildings and police intervention at street gigs, let alone the threat of rising rents. The urban renewal and park project meanwhile suggests establishment attempts to push free expression into set confines, its organic growth boxed in. And moodier diversions appear in district scenes set to spoken lyrics or minimalist music. More food for thought shows up in reflections on the showbiz media landscape, celebrity management and chasing dreams, as well as questions on selling out.
That’s not to say music and dance don’t figure in heavily too. Early on, the young crew cook up a nifty promo video with office workers and passers-by getting swept up in dance at local parks. Dave blows off steam with striking dance moves, enters a dance battle and looks overseas as part of his progression as an artist; a young kid from a troubled background gets to show his dance talent; and dance and rap are put to use in a climactic show of protest. Once again, Wong coaxes good performances from a youthful cast, affording them room to develop characters while ensuring they can let rip in musical set pieces too.
With so much crammed into its running time, The Way We Keep Dancing can feel less focused than its peppy predecessor. Yet with the youth of Hong Kong today ever more interested in hometown culture and district communities, as well as concerned about the city’s way forward, Wong’s effort to dive deeper into the hip-hop and dance milieu and touch on related issues provides timely and thought-provoking material.
Adam Wong, born in 1975, graduated from the fine arts department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His short films Fish (1997), Ah Wai & Murphy (1999) and Glowing (2000) won prizes at Hong Kong’s Independent Short Film and Video Awards, and his first feature film was the shot-on-DV movie When Beckham Met Owen (2004). Magic Boy (2007) was Wong’s first film to receive mainstream theatrical release. Wong has also lectured for creative media courses at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity.
2004 – When Beckham Met Owen
2007 – Magic Boy
2013 – The Way We Dance
2015 – She Remembers, He Forgets
2021 – The Way We Keep Dancing