Professor Christopher Bannerman
First posted: March 2021

Intercultural dialogue and exchange in and through the performing arts

Welcome to the ArtsCross pages 

ArtsCross is a long-term initiative which brings together academics, artists and producers across cultural, national and artistic borders. It is designed to enable a stronger, more productive debate between East and West at a strategically critical moment, and to harness the transformative power of the arts to advance intercultural dialogue and understanding, and to develop professional, personal and institutional exchange.

ArtsCross London 2013: Zeng Huanxin and dancers creating Walk 行走

ArtsCross began in 2009 with an innovative collaborative project involving ResCen and the Beijing Dance Academy (BDA) entitled Danscross: dancing in a shaking world. In 2011, the project name in English became ArtsCross and the partnership was extended to include Taipei National University of the Arts and academics from Queen Mary, University of London and University of Exeter. With support from the AHRC and the TAL Foundation, a series of ArtsCross projects took place: Taipei 2011: Uncertain…waiting…; Beijing 2012: Light and Water; London 2013: Leaving home, being elsewhere. The 5th Anniversary performance of selected works in 2015 took place in Beijing and was presented at the National Centre for the Performing Arts. A period of reflection and discussion followed funded by a British Academy award which led to the development of the research themes explored in 2019 in Beijing. The 2019 project also saw the first inclusion of academics from Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts and a formal Producers Forum with UK and mainland China attendees.

We now feel part of an ArtsCross family and we plan to meet together for ArtsCross Hong Kong in June 2022 with a focus on site-specific and digital performance work. Although projects have focused on dance, it is appropriate that the scope allows consideration of wider forms and ecologies of performance, as this relates to both the origins of today’s Chinese dance forms in Chinese Opera (Xìqǔ) and martial arts, and allows an interdisciplinary investigation into broader issues of cultural identity/ies and intercultural exchange. 

Each project has included artists engaged in making short works over 16 working days, followed by a performance in a theatre setting. There are restrictions for choreographers in accordance with Stravinsky’s (1942) proposition that ‘the more art is controlled, limited, worked over, the more it is free’. The ArtsCross ‘controls’ are: a fixed creative period of 16 days, a maximum performance time of 10 minutes, the involvement of up to six performers which must include representation from each collaborating partner, often requiring the involvement of interpreters, the requirement to address in some way the project theme (in 2019 it was Beyond the Clouds); and finally, the agreement to the presence of observers.

Academic observers and producers join, usually from the end of day 11, to observe rehearsals, to meet in formal seminars, have informal discussions and then, following the first performance, to present their initial responses at a conference. The research model and themes needed to be inclusive, recognising the artists as researchers and allowing individual interests and a range of perspectives. The need for interpreters led us naturally to the concept of ‘translation zones’ – ‘epistemological interstices of politics, poetics, logic, cybernetics, linguistics, genetics, media and environment’ (Apter 2006). This focus on translation increased as we adopted ideas from the work of Translation Studies scholar Martha Cheung (2012), particularly ‘exchange’ as the best description of our interactions; and we also embraced Cheung’s point that change is embedded within exchange, and that no one is left untouched when we meet. ArtsCross research has been disseminated through public performances and conferences, through the website, as well as China’s Dance journal and in a dedicated edition of Choreographic Practices (2016).

The relationship between West and East is critical to a sustainable future, and the project focuses on developing understanding not simply through exchanging cultural artefacts or performances, or through brief encounters at conferences; but by working together, examining creative processes and their outcomes, and exchanging knowledge, skills and perhaps most importantly, points of view. At this time of intense changes in the geo-political context, the project examines the particular – creative processes and performances – in order to glimpse the panoramic. 

Please explore the ArtsCross pages – there are blogs and videos of past projects and articles and papers that have resulted from reflections on them. New projects are being planned and we hope that you will continue to follow ArtsCross.

ArtsCross 2022 Hong Kong
ArtsCross Memories, March 2021
ArtsCross 2019 Beijing
ArtsCross 2014 5th Anniversary
ArtsCross 2013 London
ArtsCross 2012 Beijing
ArtsCross 2011 Taipei
Danscross 2009 Beijing
On Curation: The development of Danscross and walking with Zhuangzi
Co-Curating Dialogue: on a bridge with Zhuangzi

Apter, E. (2006) The translation zone: A new comparative literature Princeton-Oxford: Princeton University Press,
Bannerman, C. (2016) Ed. ‘Dancing Transcultural Dialogues’, Choreographic Practices, vol. 7: 2, Sole author pp. 165-195 2 Intellect, Bristol
Cheung, M. (2012) ‘The mediated nature of knowledge and the pushing-hands approach to research on translation history’, Translation Studies: Rethinking Methods in Translation History, 5:2, pp.15671.