How many preconceived ideas do we bring with us into the rehearsal studio?
During this year’s ArtsCross, I teamed up with some British dancers. This was a change from the last two sessions, where only mainland Chinese and Taiwanese dancers participated. Last year, while observing the rehearsals, I noticed that the way the dancers used their centres of gravity was different. So this time, with the arrival of the British dancers, approaches to using the centre of gravity once again constituted a focus for my observations.
While participating in last year’s ArtsCross, I noticed that the Taiwanese and mainland Chinese dancers used their bodies in different ways. I believe this is very much connected to the different teaching systems. In Taiwan’s dance schools, all students must take classes in subjects including ballet, contemporary dance, ethnic dance, Tai Chi and martial arts. Within the mainland Chinese system, and particularly within the Beijing Dance Academy, the school which all dancers want to attend, there is a very clear division between disciplines. Dancers are trained in one specialised form of dance, and every dancer possesses extremely good posture, figure and dance skills.
During my observations last year, I was most impressed by the piece by the Taiwanese choreographer Bulareyaung Pagarlava, Warriors/ Beijing. I was surprised that there could be so many differences between China and Taiwan, two places which share a common language and culture. While observing Bulareyaung’s approaches to using the centre of gravity, I discovered that the gestures performed by his dancers were very challenging for the other dancers. However, the Taiwanese dancers seemed to be able to grasp the technique of shifting their centre of gravity after receiving instructions. But when I observed the mainland Chinese dancers, I noticed that when they performed a “plié”, their centre of gravity was quite high. Different priorities within training produce different results. In saying this, I am not making any judgement on the value of the two approaches; I am simply noting my personal observations.
This year, London and seeing dancers from different cultural and training backgrounds together in the rehearsal studio made me realise that this is one of the most important aspects of ArtsCross — to use different approaches to rehearsing to allow dancers from different countries to transcend invisible boundaries, working together to establish a dance vocabulary fit for the 21st century. Based on previous experience, I used my understanding of the different cultures and training approaches, and observed to see what areas of training would be emphasized by the dancers from the three different places.
A few days before, I attended one of the rehearsals with Guo Lei, Vice President of the Beijing Dance Academy. As far as I could tell, the process of arranging the dance had already finished, and they had moved into the section where they were practising and polishing the moves. Dancers from the UK, mainland China and Taiwan were together in the studio participating in the rehearsal. Guo Lei’s dance piece used Jiangxi’s Nuo opera as a theme. The dancers wore a variety of
How much information is it really possible to glean from physical movements?? Where exactly does the divide lie between East and West? During the choreographer seminar yesterday, the Taiwanese choreographer Su
Thinking about this carefully, we should ask ourselves; do we bring too many preconceptions with us into the rehearsal studio?