Seeing through the haze

The contemporary Beijing Dance Theater makes its Israeli debut in June.

Beijing Dance Theater dancers (photo credit: Courtesy)
Beijing Dance Theater dancers
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Last week, Tel Aviv was covered in a thick layer of fog. Unusual for this time of year, the strange weather cast a moody, dreary cloud over local denizens. For Israelis, this type of gray air is something of a curiosity; however, for the dancers of the Beijing Dance Theater, it is par for the course.
The dancers will soon land in Israel for their inaugural visit.
They will perform Haze by artistic director Wang Yuanyaun at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.
The piece is danced by a cast of 19 performers and offers a taste of contemporary Chinese movement.
Wang is an unusual character in the Chinese dance world. For one, she is one of the only women at the helm of a major company. She is also several years younger than most of her fellow choreographers. Her energy, clarity and ambition have undoubtedly spurred her career, first as a dancer and now as a choreographer. Her pieces give poignant commentary on the reality of life as Wang sees it.
In 2008, the Sichuan earthquake claimed the lives of tens of thousands of locals. For Wang, this event only emphasized a growing sense of danger in China.
The pollution, the overpopulation and natural disasters had turned her home country into what felt like a minefield.
“The premiere of Haze was in 2009,” explained Wang in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post . “It was in the same period as the earthquake in Sichuan that I started the piece.
Many people died at that time, and it caused me to think about life. Around that time I was reading a work by Chinese writer Lu Xun that was written over 100 years ago. The novel led me to think about the people’s situation in China and how it is so similar to a century ago. It seems really dangerous for us not only for living in a really bad environment – the pollution in China but also the economy, which is another kind of pollution. There are so many people living in a dangerous place.”
In the years since the creation of Haze , the haze in China has only intensified.
“It’s really happening this year in Beijing,” said Wang. “In the spring, there are entire months covered by haze. I think about how we can make this pollution happen as human beings. We are the ones doing this. We have to clear something inside. We have to clear the system to save the world. I think about how to help people to save the world. It’s about the relationship between the inside and the outside.”
Wang, lighting designer Han Jiang and set designer Tan Shaoyuan formed the Beijing Dance Theater in 2008. Wang had honed her talents in New York and returned to China with a mission to carve out a niche for herself at home.
“We have the dancers and the audience in China; however, for modern dance the situation is not as good as in Europe. I think I have to do something to make more people understand modern dance. I want this generation to understand,” she said.
A unique voice in the local dance community, BDT quickly gained notice in China and abroad. All the company’s dancers are trained in classical ballet and modern dance.
Five years after establishing her company, with countless performances under her belt, Wang still gets nervous before each show.
“I love to sit in the audience and watch my dancers,” he said.”Every time, I feel like the performance is new. Even if the piece has been done many times, each time feels like the first. I get especially nervous when I take the company outside of China because I don’t know what the audience thinks about my piece and about China.”

The Beijing Dance Theater will perform at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center from June 5 – 8. For more information, visit www.israel-