It is a truth to be universally observed, that the rain everywhere is wet, and that those caught out in it will be similarly so. Despite the apparently cast iron virtue of this moronic sort of logic, it can also be observed, that despite its relentlessly downward descent,  there are a) different ways and means of getting wet and of trying to adapt to or deal with its consequences, and b) that in reaching the end of its descent, the rain performs quite differently according to the shape, structure and surfaces of the bodies and environment that it meets.

Readers of the ArtsCross blogs from Taipei will recognise the rather tangential nature of the anecdotes by which I try to find a way into these postings. This one is possibly equally specious, but the peculiar ability of rain to be at once universal and highly specific in its effects and experience, has allowed me a means of thinking through some discussions and a visit made yesterday to TAO Dance Theatre — the first on this Beijing trip for me.

The company has impressive studio in an arts complex on the outskirts of Beijing. With its red walls and marley flooring, and a high, vaulting ceiling, it was a space which felt at once calm and purposeful. Over tea with the company’s director Tao Ye either side of the company’s warm-up and morning rehearsals, we had an opportunity to ask both specifically about his work, and the status of independent performing arts in Beijing.

It doesn’t seem quite fair to report those discussions verbatim, but what was most interesting to me about the conversation, and the work, was the extent to which much of what was being worked was on the one hand familiar, and engaged with what seem some shared (if not  universal) ideas about bodily movement and expression, familiar from elsewhere. On the other hand, they were concerned with an examination of the capacity of that movement and expression to engage the here and now, even down to the specificity of the sort or type of body which can have that capacity.

That all needs some nuance, and I might return to it tomorrow, just for the sake of getting ‘something’ up on this blog. However, as I continue to think this over, I return to the half-baked anecdote at the top of this post, and through it now, I realise, to some enduring concerns. Like the weather, wherever one encounters them, bodies are remarkably similar in their actions and in the general nature of their effects — wet, warm, cold, bipedal, upstanding, etc. However, how those actions make themselves apparent makes those effects the specific properties of, and therefore ‘about’ the here and now. Occurring under pressure, in darkness, in volume, spreading out across a surface, and with intensity makes performance, like the rain, a condition of this place, this moment. It rained like hell out of a yellow-brown sky in Beijing last night, with half a foot of water flooding the roads in a matter of minutes. Earlier we had watched TAO Dance Theatre’s astonishing performers move at and on each other across their red studio floor at great speed and with remarkably energetic vectors — a different kind of flooding.

1 comment to Rain

  • Angela Woodhouse

    Neatly articulated – thank you Martin. Of course rain and its traumatic effect is in much debate at the moment from here to Russia – with a sad loss of too many – and over to you. While the outcome is universal wet, is wet, is wet – the means can be distinctly memorable, as I recall New York in 1988 when the downpour I experienced reminded me that though the culture was familiar the climate was not – this was not how we experience rain in little England.

    As you ferment a further extension of the metaphor I mull over the need to find similarities and differences in our dancing cultures and look forward to hearing of how strange languages can meaningfully communicate ideas beyond technical prowess. Thoughts from soggy GB.

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