Shake it up Oct 27/28

October 27, 2009
Shake it Out
Every morning before going to the rehearsals at BDA, I go to the nearby Zizhuyuan Park. The name of the park has something to do with royal bamboo, which is everywhere and there is a separate bamboo specialty garden-within-the-garden. At 7AM the park is hopping, literally with over 15 or more “dance” related groups. I walk past tai chi, Beijing opera singing and instruments playing, four or five ballroom dancing groups playing popular songs to waltz, tango etc., three or four types of Chinese Folk dance with fans, no fans, streamers, a soft jazzercise movement class, sword dancing groups, foursomes that hit a feathered ball on their up turned heels, (jumping between hits with turning), and in one part of the park people are in separate spaces and over a loud speaker someone is shouting movements, and they all do these commands in unison, like jumps, walks with kicks, and everyone responds loudly with short shouts. I pass between curtains of music from many boom boxes.
The dances have names: Tiechun’s is now “Ghost Money” (maybe “coins” is better and the word in Mandarin means “paper money” that is used at funerals when it is burned so that the person who died may purchase what they need in the other world—). This goes so well with the Mozart work’s background. Then Jonathan’s is now Beijing Ren or Beijing Man, the name of the play by the playwright I wrote about last week, Cao Yu, (1940). This also stands for the once earliest finding of a human-like remains names Beijing man. Ok now the work gets gendered no matter what you do.
Ghost Money
Tiechun refines and refines. He reworks sections for the two child-like roles after watching a video of the work. Now these two performers are in a stronger opposition to the primary couple. While the dance classes are really strictly divided by male and female styles (even ballet), this dance is coupled (hetero-wise) so we have an intertwining of genders, while the ”roles” are still male/female gendered with women lifted by men and men doing big jumps and turns. In Jonathan’s dance gendering is shifted to different variables of male-ness.
Twisting theme of Ghost Money “Zhi qian”
I took two female folk dance classes and found the twisting of the torso, legs/feet/ankles in walking, and arms/wrists/fingers and shoulders, even turning is like curling up, twisting. This action must have many shades and variations, which I know nothing about, but it seems to function as a movement theme. Tiechun is head of the Folk Dance Division at BDA and he spoke of taking this twisting as far as it could go, “…to extremes,” he said the second day of choreographing. What does “twist” mean? If you do the action, it means you have to hold onto one head of the twist and initiate it from the other, or the center is held and the two ends must twist. It is a contained, bound action. Tiechun frequently directs the twist inward, and on occasion he might emphasize the outward action or untwisting, but most move inward to consolidate the action, control it closer to one’s center. I think Tiechun said to his dancers after one run through: twist until you can go no further, then make the change. Don’t rush, energy is continuous and active … the twist itself has emotion.” An active/passive relationship is necessary according to Tiechun, but not too active nor too passive.

Beijing Ren
While I keep searching for the ”shaking world” theme in this work, the play Beijing Ren is actually quite appropriate, but the dancers nor the choreographer are making use of the work itself, just cut up dialogue. Just a little background on Cao Yu:
In 1940, Cao Yu completed the writing of his fifth play, Peking Man, considered his most profound and successful work. Set in Peking (today Beijing) as its name implies, and in the then present, surprisingly the work does not allude to the war with Japan at all, but chronicles the history of a well-heeled family that is incapable of surviving and adapting to social changes which are destroying the traditional world and culture in which they live. The title of the work is an allusion to the so-called Peking Man, the proto-human who inhabited the north of China several hundred thousand years ago. Cao Yu’s recurrent themes are present, emphasizing the inability of traditional families to adapt themselves to modern society and its customs and ways. October 27, 2009

Backlog of stuff: Jonathan uses “dream” idea, a kind of surrealism is in the sections and movement but the music drives it differently/ Could the sound be silent for a section? How much do we see when there is no sound to move the movement? Working on relationships needs more work. They are invested but some of the gestures that are small and personal no longer carry that personal stuff. Sometimes seems a bit mechanical, very beautiful but controlled and ”cool.”
I would like to have some time to talk to each performer from this group by himself, because they group think sometimes. Are these dancers in their world of the dance academy perhaps unaware of the shaking world? Or is it hard to think or feel when your life seems set and stable in their system of state supported dance? Are any dances ever controversial? Do their dance dramas go back into pre-20th century Chinese culture to be safe?

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