This leading, groundbreaking modern dance company, directed by Zhang Changcheng, has been playing a major role, since the mid-nineties, in promoting Chinese aspirations for cultural dialogue with the West.
Two works were presented, and both Unfettered Journey by Hu Lei and Oath by Gao Yanjinzi offered a highly refined, scintillating cast, particularly the male dancers, who benefit from training that merges western and eastern disciplines, allowing them to excel in worrier-style manly roles as well as tender ones, with exceptional upper body fluidity of hermaphrodite quality. These techniques are part of traditional performing conventions, which determine that men are to play the female roles.
Both works contained overt ceremonial elements and both used the space in a more formal and restrained manner than most western dance companies of today. Both offered endless moments of beauty, even poetic spirituality.
The main difference between the two creations lay in the way in which the choreographers perceived the dancing body and in their awareness of their own artistic agendas. While Lei dealt principally with space and composition in more abstract terms and presented delightful ensemble work with martial arts roots, Gao wove a series of solo presentations centered around traditional themes; Flower, Grass, Fish and Bird. It was a tour de force of the solo dancers but choreography succumbed to exotic estheticism interfacing with literary arts.
Still, appreciation for the piece's beauty didn't entirely erase some aftertaste; the result of the practice of producing crafts that cater exclusively for foreign tastes, using exotica as a marketable commodity.
In the end, the quality of the superb dancing with its rich nuances and detailed colors offered by dancers Bravo to Wang Tao and Yang Chang surpassed the choreographic foundations in terms of intricacy and stratification.
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