The ongoing dance festival at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing includes Israel's Batsheva Dance Company's DecaDance, Zhang Jigang's dance drama Thousand-Hand Bodhisattva, Jin Xing's Shanghai Tango and New York-based Shen Wei's modern dance piece Folding (above).
A dance festival that started on Oct 9 and runs through Dec 11, is in full swing at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. It has been held annually for several years now and is surprisingly popular, says Jiang Dong, despite research showing dance generally trailing concerts and theater in attendance at the iconic egg-shaped venue.
"The choice of repertory is important," says Jiang, vice-president of the dance institute, a branch of the Chinese National Academy of Arts. "Audience acceptance is top priority." Two calling cards have been Yang Liping with her Yunnan folk dance and Lin Hwai-min with his Taiwan-based modern dance. The two are absent from this year's lineup, though.
Jiang does not think Yang and Lin represent the best in Chinese dance, but he admires their marketing skills. "That does not mean they pander to public tastes. They operate on a high artistic level, but there are other, equally good dancers who do not know, or care about, the art of selling." He cites Lee-chen Lin and her Legend Lin Dance Theater and Wang Mei of the Beijing Dance Academy. The former is not prolific and the latter has no intention of taking her work beyond the campus.<
The ongoing dance festival at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing includes Israel's Batsheva Dance Company'sDecaDance, Zhang Jigang's dance drama Thousand-Hand Bodhisattva (above), Jin Xing's Shanghai Tangoand New York-based Shen Wei's modern dance pieceFolding.
He also calls Zhang Jigang's early work Dedicated to My Parents a masterpiece and a contemporary classic, but that was before Zhang got into the establishment. "Zhang used simple movements from folk dances and ended up conveying complicated ideas more often associated with intellectuals of the country." Zhang's dance drama Thousand-Hand Bodhisattva was staged over Nov 18-20.
Jiang also praises choreographer Wang Ge for his narrative technique. "We used to believe that dance excels in conveying emotions, but Wang demonstrates that dance can tell stories in very effective ways. If you can find the right method, dance can be more effective than regular plays." Unfortunately, Wang creates only short pieces, he adds.
Speaking about the blurring of traditional divisions between regular theater and dance, Jiang says some theater actors may have been trained in dance and have very strong expressive abilities. It is, therefore, natural for them to incorporate elements of dance into their new creations.