ArtsCross Beijing 2019: Beyond the Clouds – 10 years of ArtsCross

It is difficult to believe that 10 years have passed since the 2009 Danscross project which initiated the collaboration between ResCen and the Beijing Dance Academy (BDA). The project, called Dancing in a Shaking World received significant attention as indicated by this report on Chinese television:

Over the ten years the project has grown, first with the addition of Taipei University of the Arts (TUA), which enabled each of the three partners to host creative process, performance and conference events (Taipei 2011, Beijing 2012 and London 2013) (ArtsCross home page). Now, in 2019 in Beijing, we have academics from BDA, TUA, Middlesex University, Queen Mary University of London, University of Exeter; performers from BDA, University of Taipei, London freelancers including recent graduates from Rambert School; choreographers from Beijing, Taipei, London and a guest choreographer from Jerusalem; as well as visitors from Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts and producers from the UK who will meet to discuss potential collaborations with colleagues here.

From the outset the project was designed to stimulate the creation of new dance works or ideas that were not only relevant to the development of dance itself, but which also had the potential to speak to contemporary concerns beyond the arts world. So, in 2009, we wrote about those forces that move unhindered across national and other boundaries – climate change, earthquakes and other natural disasters, infectious diseases, financial instability, as well as the shifting geo-political tectonic plates. But if, in 2009, we felt the need to address the ‘shaking world’ what can we say, or do, or dance about in 2019?

In 2019 it seems that the world is not just shaking – it is breaking apart, fragmenting, dis-integrating. Climate change is now an emergency, and human impact on the environment requires a multilateral, united and sustained response across the globe, accompanied by a commitment of resources. However, at this most critical juncture, it appears that collective action and agreement have been frustrated by the unmitigated pursuit of narrow self-interest, despite the interconnected nature of the issues; and despite the clear benefits to all of a united approach. Exacerbating this failure is the deployment of economic coercion to achieve hegemonic advantage which further embeds uncertainty, division and financial instability in the international sphere.

All of this has taken us to a place where it is hard to see a way forward, and hard to imagine what dance can say or do to move things forward, to make a difference. Our gestures are small, contained within a studio, created in private spaces, sheltered from external gaze before finally being presented on a public stage. And despite the expansion of the project, we are still relatively few in number. Nonetheless, we have gathered from many places to be here in Beijing, where it is sometimes a comfort to consider the longevity of Chinese culture, its resilience and ability to endure turbulent times, known in Chinese as luàn shì, the periodic upheavals which have occurred over millennia. Further comfort can perhaps be gleaned from Chinese poetry and who better to guide us than Li Bai, also known as Li Po (701-762 CE), whose words still resonate despite their Tang Dynasty origin. He proposed that we might ‘meet at last on the Cloudy River of the sky’ by which he meant the milky way – beyond, yet on the clouds, an ambiguity fitting for a theme that references not only the tradition of clouds, but also the modern ‘cloud’ of the digital age.

Here in Beijing we meet together, we create dance together, we perform together and we debate together – working together the differences are woven into both the fabric of the everyday and the moments of magic that somehow spontaneously arise. It is a small gesture, but it makes a place for itself in the world. I hope that you enjoy the postings from Beijing.

Professor Christopher Bannerman
October 2019

“Drinking Alone by Moonlight” (月下獨酌), one of Li Bai’s best-known poems,
as translated by Arthur Waley in More Translations From the Chinese (1919)

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ArtsCross 2019 Programme