Gala spotlights rising stars in Chinese contemporary dance

Gala spotlights rising stars in Chinese contemporary dance

From The Martial Dance that adds a modern touch to traditional Chinese kung fu to Sacrifice that mixes ballet with modern dance, from Inside that digs deeply into complicated human emotions of loneliness and love, to 32 Chapters that seeks an answer in the years after one's 30s... a year-end gala has brought to the center stage rising choreographers and dancers in the Chinese contemporary dance scene.

Performance clips from eight choreographers' works were featured on two nights of shows, from Nov 24 to 25, at the Beijing National Theater, which fully displayed the vitality and creativity of young Chinese dancers: Their artistic exploration and focuses on individuals, social reality and world issues.

It's also aimed at celebrating the fifth anniversary of the National Youth Dancers Development Plan, a Chinese contemporary dance platform initiated by the China Dancers Association in 2014.

In interviews with China Daily website, Wen Xiaochao, the choreographer of 32 Chapters, and Gong Xingxing, the choreographer of Inside, shared behind-the-scenes stories.

Turning a new chapter on life

Indie choreographer and dancer Wen Xiaochao turned 32 in 2018, which motivated him to create the work 32 Chapters, named after his age at the time.

"It's about faith, about dreams. There is beauty in this dream. There are heartbroken moments. There is loneliness that you have to bear, but still, it's very positive," he said. "As long as you stick to this dream, you can see the silver linings behind the clouds."

The 20-odd-minute performance clip on Nov 25 started in the dynamic rhythm of Come As You Are, a song written by the American band Nirvana's frontman Kurt Cobain, with six dancers dressed in loose black clothing swinging freely to the infectious beat of the music.

They soon shifted to six sentimental solos, portraying different kinds of solitude and ways to ward it off. Fragile or powerful, they were spectacular displays of techniques and hearts, sharing with the audience their deepest fears and passions.

Wen says these solos are his favorite part. "Each of us demonstrates loneliness in our own ways. I hope to dig out their different personalities through these solos," Wen says.

Standing at a crossroads in his dance career, he said, "I used to pay a lot of attention to the dance techniques - my priority was often on how to fully present the physical beauty. But as I grow older, now I value more the meaning behind these dance moves."

Wen's dance career started with ballet and folk dance at the age of 13. He switched to contemporary dance at 18. He graduated from the Beijing Dance Academy, where he got the opportunity to study contemporary dance choreography in New Zealand for a year as an exchange student. That year had helped nurture the openness and more creative, bold thinking in his later works.

"I think the choreography of dancers in my generation has become very diversified in recent years. Everyone touches on different topics, exploring different possibilities of human bodies. They fully express themselves, which is very different from previous years when dancers, more often than not, imitated each other," he said. "Now their works embody more personal thinking. They've formed their own vocabulary. This vocabulary means their own styles and ways of expression."

In this competition I saw a lot of talented young people, many amazing surprises... featuring himself, his work, each participant thus represented his country, the level of its culture. We all were interested to see what is happening in the world in the field of dance, what's new and significant.

Arnold Haskell, UK

The alarming tendency is that the contestants very often change the chorographical “texts”. This arises a strongest protest in me – I do not want to see the well-known choreography of a ballet masterpiece to be filled up with various “additions” which destroy its style and logic…Distortion of choreographer’s original texts is caused by the technical difficulties which make it hard to perform for the contestants. Then they make a “light version”. The situation is very irritating and requires certain amendments in the competition Regulations.

Charles Jude, France

... This is a great event and I am confident that even the performance on the most famous stages in the world will be a precious memory for all who participate in the competition, regardless of whether they will be among the first or not.

Arnold Haskell, UK

And what I would consider to be the most important – the Competition allows us to see that it is the individual style that is most valued in art

Alicia Alonso, Cuba

Since the very first competition in 1969 many things have changed. And if at that time the difference between the countries with long-standing traditions of classical dance and the counties which did not have any was very big, in the following years this gap has faded away. The popularity of ballet has grown up all around the world. And all the better, as I think it has become difficult to demonstrate you mastery, skills, - the professional requirements have been leveled up!

Olga Lepeshinskaya, USSR

Our Competition, giving a very difficult program, thus stimulates the progress of ballet.

Yuri Grigorovich, Russia
To affirm the basis of classical dance, constantly renewing it, enriching it with new lexis, new themes, new genres – that is what our common task is, that is what should reveal itself most brightly at the Competition.
Igor Moiseev, USSR
To success at the competition you need to have a great deal of personality, the strength… You need to be able to show that you love ballet and to perform even better than you actually can.
Loipa Araujo, Cuba
Ballet is not a sport, the combination of ballet movements should be expressive, meaningful, magical. Bazil and Jose should have the same brilliant technique, but by no means – the same expression.
Ben Stevenson, USA
At the International competition in Moscow I have seen a lot of what is really interesting, which I woul never see anywhere else. I love the art of classical dance and will never lay its precious heritage aside. But every time the epoch brings out something fresh, new. And you do not have to make the choice of “either…or” in art. That is fine which is perfect. This is life itself.
Agnes De Mille, USA