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An unfamiliar sense of excitement for the future…

It seems striking to me how often I have witnessed here a sense of excitement and potential for change with regard to the performing arts in China. Whether dance companies or experimental theatre and dance venue, many voices here talk about a chance for a strong development of a performance culture.

This has been expressed in various ways, but what I heard several times was that audiences here need to be ‘educated’ to appreciate performance more. At a recent visit to the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing, which is the top conservatoire in the country, Hao Rong, the Director of the Acting programme, even drew a direct comparison to the future of China versus the future of the West. As he expressed it, China has a “better future” than the UK, since although many small theatres already exist in the latter country, the potential for growth is hence comparatively less and smaller than in China, where many small venues can still open up.

Similarly Peng Tao, the company director of Tao Dance Theater, spoke about a fascination with the Asian dancer’s body, over an interest with the Western dancer’s body. He explained that he perceived China as a ”huge resource” at present, where something special can happen if you use it. This, he stated, is also the reason for his decision to live and work in China now.

The potential for change and growth seems to be valued higher than the present state of affairs, not unlike what takes place in the political and economic environment. An excitement for what is to come is what I sense to be in the air in this fast-changing country. A very different feeling seems to exist in the West, where we seem to be fearful a lot of the time of the future, due to changes in the financial climate and restrictions in the education system.

     

                798 Art District Beijing, 2012

Along with this excitement for the future I sense a strong preoccupation with itself in China, and I wonder sometimes how much anybody else will actually be let into their processes. There is much eagerness to develop China and Chinese culture itself, and also make an impact elsewhere, in the West, but I wonder sometimes how much this trend is receptive to what is ‘other’ to them, how much non-Chinese culture they would be willing to absorb at present?

It feels to me that there is an incredibly strong sense that this is their time now  in China – and boy, it hasn’t ended yet!!

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