TWO SHOTS from ‘Cold Arrow – Game of Go.’.
(photo credit: ZHANG HEPING)
On its fifth tour to Israel, the Beijing Dance company, founded by Willi Tsao, presented Cold arrow – Game of Go by the couple Li Han-Zhong and Ma Bo. Tsao is perhaps the most important figure in the transition of Chinese dance from traditional and ethnic dance to the realm of modern dance.
The earlier attempts relied more on imitation of modern perceptions and forms, yet later some creators found a way to use the techniques as tools for authentic expression. Beijing Dance company is among them. The company didn’t sever ties with the past, however, which works in this case but only up to a point.
Leaning on cultural roots has its own hazards. On one hand it feeds the demand for some exotic touches, the thirst for “Orientalism,” which some consider as the other side of prejudice. On the other hand, dancing with long silk ribbons, a mish-mash of martial arts moves, meditation poses or flying dragon- like customs in a straight-forward fashion is only one notch better than using more touristic props. The artistic integrity is often at risk, as we have seen in the past rather often.
The piece was accompanied by music by new age composer David Darling. His score relied mostly on Western instruments and scales, with careful inserts of Chinese musical sounds, which matched the dance’s orientation.
All 14 dancers are well trained and disciplined, with gymnastic skills, and yet looked pleasant. The choreographers showed a particularly good eye for composition, smooth transitions and aesthetic scenes. Movements often depicted motives related to the title’s arrow (based on old story) and the 2,000-yearold game of Go, a board game played with black and white stones, the color of the beautifully detailed layered dress-like outfits.
Yet the choreography suffered from overuse of certain jumps and turns, which tended to exhaust their first impression.
Only one short scene broke all conventions, revealing a surprisingly sensitive layer, which sparkled like a jewel. The dancers formed a line, facing the audience, following a death scene. Their faces were covered by their hands. Hardly moving, they reveal their faces. Eyes shut, heads are raised, as a trace of a smile illuminates their faces in a singular manner. It was an inspired moment that will be well remembered.
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