Contemporary Dance in China


Photo from Beijing Modern Dance's Oath-Midnight Rain, by Zhang Changcheng

“Everyone here has been very excited by what I’ve brought back. The physical standard of dancing is very good in China, but the level of original thought still feels very low. It’s amazing that in this enormous country, we only have three modern dance companies.”—Chinese choreographer Sang Jijia, who completed a four-year apprenticeship with William Forsythe and returned to China to establish his own contemporary dance company.

Modern dance was, in fact, BANNED in China until 1980, and when the first companies started to tour internationally, critics, according to The Guardian’s Judith Mackrell, had a hard time interpreting what they were seeing, finding it both alien and derivative.

Funding for dance in China is limited to state-sponsored companies, and at least one party official has to approve a production before it can be performed in public – and, unlike with ballet and folk dance, audiences for modern dance are small: the very concept of the art form is all but meaningless outside the major cities. In 1998, Beijing Modern Dance Company, which appears with Wen Wei Dance March 11 and 12 with Under the Skin, became the first independent not-for-profit  arts society in China, ever, when it declined state sponsorship in favour of independence.

Chinese choreographers are passionate about pushing the art form forward, increasingly incorporating traditional Chinese movement, tai chi and other martial arts, and acrobatics into their work. These cultural influences bode well for the future of contemporary dance in China–British choreographer Akram Khan that, “It is so fresh. At first, they had to do a lot of copying from the West, but now they are developing their own aesthetic.”

This leads up to our next Speaking of Dance event, March 1 in the Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema at SFU Woodward’s beginning at 7pm. Our speaker Anita Seiz will talk about dance training in China from her perspective as a movement analyst, educator and dancer. Save the date–the talk is free, and they’re always interesting.

~ by DanceHouse on February 17, 2011.

2 Responses to “Contemporary Dance in China”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Dance Centre, DanceHouse. DanceHouse said: More about contemporary dance in China. If you want even more, why not come to Speaking of Dance March 1? […]

  2. Great to see interest in Contemporary Dance in China. BMDC is a good place to start to learn what’s going on here. While the non-governmental scene is often dominated by monied interests, there are lots of smaller and smarter groups over here. Check out brand nu dance (nunu kong) in Shanghai, – Tao Dance Theater in Beijing and the amazing Li Ning from Jinan if anyone needs info feel free to email me…

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