Cold birds and pets October 19

Blog October 19, 2009 k Mezur
Cold birds and pets October 19
Beijing Dance Academy BIG BIRTHDAY party last night at the Military Theatre. Security at the door took your temperature on entering with a gun like instrument held near your neck, and you pass through a metal detector. But everyone else thinks this is nothing new. To enter the Theatre you must take off your purses and backpacks and put them through a security check. Then VIPs enter 20 min after followed by speeches, speeches, speeches. Three hundred students are about to present the anniversary dances from every type of dance from every region, in ascending order with the original choreographer listed. They bring out the older dancers and choreographers from these past times: about 25? Not sure. They are astonishing, men and women, some look not so old, but a few totter in on canes and with help. A pink flurry of young boys and girls flock it to bestow flower bouquets on these legendary dancer/choreographers/teachers. The audience is thrilled. Then the performance begins with a kind of classical Chinese acrobatic wonder as students fly and fling and bend and splay legs in amazing gymnastic stunts. Tricks to me. Sorry. The ”system” of showing me technique is ok but. In the next hour and half there is a medley of dances from the repertoire. The Cultural Revolution is the vacuum. Here we have bodies in front of us with all that history. Red flag billowing giantly from the stage: world here is RED. Heart =

Here we go: Letting you know I am going to use language like a dance sometimes, and not worry about sentence structures etc thanks.

Aware of organization: how will they meet and start. How gracious will they be? We (Westerners) seem really focused. Lots of media about. This makes Jonathan a bit uneasy. We work out how to use the interpreters. I suddenly feel like I have a body guard. Emily is like a shadow with Jonathan and Carolyn. He hands out the poem that is one of the texts of the work, Wet or winter Snow is the name, chills huh. Very beautiful choice as I see movement begin to fidget out the 6MALE VERY DIFFERENT BODIES. They move so differently from the Guadong Dance Company, recently in San Francisco. I miss having female bodies. Does this make the dance easier to make? Evens out the territory, there is a ”broad” gender difference here. See notes on the Chinese choreographer.

Working on ”words” or characters of the poem, not for ”meaning” I think; what does meaning do? How does it act or dance. Why do many choose to query “meaning”? What is meaning in Chinese. Tiny Shifts all day over Chinese words and English words. Like that.
Men moving so smoothly, silken, but use weight. Front and side and back facings. Diagonals used for locomotion not in place movement. Hmmm. I will add names tomorrow. Beautiful hands. Jonathan pushes for more commitment to feeling or involvement with each choice they make. They show each phrase 3 times with words 2x and then without saying words. I enjoy the words slipping out between movements, on top of a gesture, behind an impulse, creates a tension for them, something to challenge beyond the leg being so high. One tries to slip out of problem. Jonathan pushes him back.

Bird image, cold, wetness, a fisherman, 10,000 is next to alone, solitary, single, this poem is weighty but has birds to fly on. Don’t do images, break away from obvious. But this Tang poet was brush stroked these words into being, are we beating them back into the inked landscape?

I watch Jonathan watching for bodies, which speak. Repeating changes things. Tasks are gesture packages.
Transitions: energy drops happen. Lines are so strong with arms stretched, legs strike high like lightning bolts. Still technique-like. Shake out the dance and boogie.

Bodies: some make the same rhythms, hard to break your own patterns and comfortzones. Gumby arms, sensibility of everyday movement doesn’t stay still on their bodies, fist becomes turning and crumpling. My kinaesthetics may be jet lagged. I see lines and lovely bodies, but, hmm.

More phrase and sounds of ”words” hands over eyes. Slashes into the ground. Rolls over somersaults.
Transitions? Not yet, they blend easily, gesture to locomotion, birdlike stuff. When the guys prompt each other with words it is very dynamic too, layers of voices.

CaoYu is the playwright for tiny section of dialogue between two men from play Beijing Man, maybe written in the 20s or 30s. Famous playwright one of first to take on Chinese spoken drama “huaju”. Chinese and Japanese studied western forms simultaneously.

Chinese on Chinese
Four dancers two men and two women. Different energy. Different presence. Younger? Chinese choreographer is very direct, stands moves close to them. We sit together on the floor. He explains that he is from the North East China and is the Ethnic Dance specialist here at the school. He has a shaved head, bends slightly forward at the waist when he talks and moves over to a dancer in rehearsal. Direct: Something like this paraphrasing: “This is not the way I work. I work with a plan and make dances from vocabulary of a specific region. He knows the students? They are Classical and Ethnic dancers I think, must find out.

Ah, got his name: Zhao Tie Chun, starts talking about “Chinese-ness” what is Chinese? Way cool. Talks about how dances he teaches and makes are drawn from specific regional folk/traditions, very specific and set. Theme of shaking and other ideas of environment, chaos in world, very important, how can the folk/ethnic set forms change to work with these contemporary themes? Is it possible? He wants the traditional gestures to go to another level, the ethnic must do more than meet the modern, shows how a gesture in dance means “happy” in one ethnic dance, arms over head jutting upward expansive. So Xgesture EQUALS Xfeeling. He wants to question that. He has chosen the music already: (have to ask him about this choice) Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor and it may be a requiem because he talks about how the music like the traditional dance is “set: to, it is about mourning, after death and the gesture or practice that would go with that from traditional dance might be throwing paper coins. Wants to break that direct connection, press “folk” stylization into everyday.

Important to break from habits. He feels challenged. Talks about “expression”
Meeting dancers in hallway. They say they made an improvisation about typical family members with gestures of only everyday life. He gives them roles.

Later on stage rehearsal makes it harder for direct communication. Tie Chun has to walk up to stage and jump onto stage and jump off stage and down again. Active. Now dancers are in a configuration of father, mother, and two small “pet-like” children. Woman/mother does small figure 8 steps from opera or? Another kind of folk dance. Now Tie Chun stops and goes, picking out exact. Pulls bodies, presses, repeats repeats slaps for timing. Exacting. Says for them to make their butts ugly, wants more make it larger or way too small, miniature. Be freer.

Make a tableau: one figure center, male, is the center figure of woman on side, with two “children” like puppies beside her rolling and jumping and scuffing. No smiling, really strange, surreal quality of figures and gestures. Claps timing, controls and repeats. Wants angles of bodies and focus just right. NOT improv here. Setting it. Falls and rises timed over and over again. Two women make the dance different. NO ONE comments on the work. k

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