By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
BeijingDance/LDTX (Lei Dong Tian Xia), which means “Thunder Rumbles Under Heaven,” a leader and catalyst in modern and contemporary dance China, will perform its first concert ever in Minnesota on Tuesday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington Street, St. Paul, MN 55102.
Tickets start at $21. Call 651-224-4222 or visit online at www.ordway.org.
Led by Artistic Director Willy Tsao and Deputy Artistic Director, Li Hanzhong, BeijingDance/LDTX is the first modern dance company founded independently from the Chinese government.
Tsao has been instrumental to the development of the modern dance in China. He was born and educated in Hong Kong and received his modern dance training in the United States and graduated from the University of Hong Kong with an MBA degree in 1999. He went on to teach modern dance at the Beijing Dance Academy and the Guangdong Dance School in addition to conducting intensive modern dance workshops all around China
Tsao established the Hong Kong City Contemporary Dance Company and the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, and served as the artistic director of the Beijing Modern Dance Company before forming the BeijingDance / LDTX in 2005.
Tsao’s variety of choreographic works have been well received internationally, including major works: “Bird Songs”, “Kunlun”, “China Wind, China Fire”, “Wandering in the Realm of Lightness”, “One Table Two Chairs”, “Sexing Three Millenniums”, and “In Search of the Grand View Garden.”
Mr. Tsao responded to questions prior to his Minnesota visit while still in China.
Asian American Press: As the Artistic Director of BeijingDance/LDTX, perhaps you can enlighten us to what it means to be the first modern dance company founded independently from the Chinese government?
Willy Tsao: In June 2005, the central government of China endorsed a new policy that private sector, or individual, could run performing arts institute, and register the institute as a business enterprise. Before June 2005, all performing arts companies in China were established and supported financially by the government, and therefore all artistic direction were under the government control.
BeijingDance/LDTX, registered in August 2005, was the first to take the chance of not relying on the government’s subvention, therefore, becoming totally independent from the government system.
AAP: I see that part of your repertoire is based on ethnic and cultural heritage of various regions of China, and yet you are described as innovative and independent. What does this mean and how does your independence differ from following what you see as an official or unofficial directive to use your art to further a cultural, social or political message other than your own?
WT: ‘Based on ethnic/cultural heritage’ is not necessarily contradicting to being ‘innovative and independent’. In fact, the significance of the contemporary (modern) dance for the development in China is not its innovation or independence, but the sense of freedom in its creative process.
Young dancers and scholars are attracted to the Chinese modern dance because they see that the choreographers and modern dancers are free to create. Some create with a strong base in their cultural heritage, some stay away from their own ethnical background, and some just try to do something completely different. And they are all accepted and appreciated in the name of modern dance.
This sense of newfound freedom is what I understand as something to change the Chinese community and to become a strong cultural, social and even political message.
AAP: How has this new freedom with the creative process worked as a collaboration of professional choreographers and dancers?
WT: Both the choreographers and dancers have to be open-minded, sensitive and adaptive to new forms and ideas while they create and claim to be the modern dance artist.
AAP: Is there a difference in perspectives of people trained before and after the China economic ‘boom’ and the new possibilities created in the present?
WT: I started working in China while it is experiencing the economic ‘boom’. I find that peoples mind changed so rapidly from day to day. It does not really have a ‘before the boom’ mode and an ‘after the boom’ mode, since the concept of dance, of arts, of the world, is still changing.
AAP: Can you describe the modern and contemporary dance of BeijingDance/LDTX and to the extent that they can be described as a fusion of east-west or whether it is the evolution of Chinese dance styles alone?
WT: The repertoire in the BeijingDance/LDTX reflects only the choreographer’s own perception of the dance. The Company engages many choreographers, and encourages each choreographer to indulge in his/her own style of dance.
I can draw Li Han-zhong’s work of “All River Red” as an example of a fusion of east-west, but the work represents only Li’s certain period of creation. The LDTX has many other choreographers engaging in different creative directions, Sang Ji-jia is more interested in discovering the darker side of human emotion, Liu Bin and Song Ting-ting are searching for a balanced contemporary life, and even Li Han-zhong and Ma Bo are actively seeking to break away from the socially codified ‘East-West’ notion.
After all, I don’t believe that there is one single style of Chinese modern dance in development.
AAP: How has the new era in China fueled the excitement and hope that must translate into dance?
WT: People cannot miss out the different levels of energy, the variety of forms and the many social issues expressed when they come to see the modern dance performances by the many different Chinese dancers.
AAP: Can you describe the new generation of Chinese dancers that have emerged during the new era in China over the past decade or so? Is there a difference in their training, conditioning or perhaps their perspectives on dance and the way they approach choreography or style?
WT: The young dancers in the academy are still trained very much in a traditional way, using ethnic dance and classical ballet as the basic technique. I think the change happens more in the society.
When the young dancers graduate, they find that they have more opportunity to go to different fields, to audition for companies like LDTX, and most importantly, they do not need to dance the way that they were taught in the academy. This whole new situation does change their perspectives on dance.
AAP: I hesitate to call your Ordway program a highlight of works, but perhaps it is? Can you tell us a little about the selected pieces, The Cold Dagger, Sky, One Table N Chairs, and All River Red?
WT: Those are just some dance pieces that work well together as a full evening program. It does reflect the diversity of the company’s style and direction, and offers a glimpse of some talented young choreographers from China. I hope the audience will enjoy the dance for its own artistic merit, but do not use different standard to judge, simply because it’s from China.
Of course, the China syndrome does add weight in the appreciation either in a positive or negative way, but after seeing the performance, people will realize that the dancers on stage are just simple human beings.