There is a dialogue in the Tony-winning play ClybournePark that’s guaranteed to generate laugh in the theater. This occurs in the scene when a white couple who are thinking of renovating a house they’re moving in and are having a meeting with a black couple who are the long-term residents in the neighborhood. The white male, feeling impatient after the discussion keeps circling around the “style” of their renovation, finally bursts out, “What good does that do if we perpetually fall into the same predictable little euphemistic tap dance around the topic?” The black male then retorts, “You know how to tap dance?”
I cannot help but think about this part when I watched the Taiwanese tap dance group “Dance Works” perform inBrooklynlast week. Who knows Asian can tap dance too! And they’re pretty good at it. While adhering to tap’s spirit of creative rhythm, they have added the elements of traditional Chinese movements. The result is a more tender and soft tap dance.
The intricate relation between costumes and dance is vividely illustrated in Dancing with 29 Sweaters, a collaborative performance between Yung Li Chen 陳詠俐, Huei-Lee Wei, and Jia-Jen Lin 林嘉貞. Chen and Wei’s choreography responds to Lin’s “wearable sculpture” to create a dialogue between dance and sculpture. It will be performed live at the HATCH Presenting Series. The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goFYM7l3bTU
Composer Huang Ruo and choreographer Michael Mao come together for two performances of “Cultural Convergences” this weekend. Mao has made three dances , two to Huang Ruo’s music: Drama Theater I: Sound of Hand and Drama Theater III: Shifting Shades. The second is played by percussion, piano, cello and 18 beer bottles. Presumably beer will not be consumed on stage! Sound of Hand probably will have a lot of clapping. Huang Ruo is a composer interested in unusual sounds. Even when he uses traditional instruments, they always sound different.
The last piece will be danced to Mahler’s “Der Abschied” from Das Lied von der Erde (in a new version for large chamber ensemble by Yoon Jae Lee). Since the lyrics of the song cycle are Chinese poems from 1200 years ago, this is a fitting conclusion of the “Cultural Convergences” theme. Although without lyrics, the dance may not need to stick to the “Farewell” theme. We’ll see.
There will be two Chinese performances in this year’s Lincoln Center Festival: The TAO Dance Theater on July 25 and 27; A chamber opera by Chinese composer Guo Wenjing called Feng Yi Ting on July 26, 27, 28. The later is billed as a multimedia presentation directed by film director Atom Egoyan.
I always have ambiguous feelings about LCF. They always have interesting programs that you are not likely to see anywhere else in New York. But the whole Festival is permeated with a feeling of luxury that is off-putting to people who do not have summer houses in the Hamptons. Although their tickets seem to sell out very quickly. So maybe that is just me.
Here is from the official press release:
Beijing’s TAO Dance Theater’s choreographer Tao Ye is regarded as the most exciting name in modern dance in China. Founded in 2008 by Ye and dancer Wang Hao, a specialist in Mongolian folk dance, TAO Dance Theater has grown to become China’s most highly sought-after modern dance company. The company will present two works at the Festival. The first, 2, is a duet developed from the rhythms of the spoken word; the performers recorded their own conversations during rehearsal and daily life to develop the accompanying soundscape. The resulting performance is both hypnotic and thought-provoking, as virtuosic patterns emerge from minimalistic movements to represent two souls in conversation. The second work, 4, is the company’s newest creation, a high-impact and intensely physical piece for four women seen here in its North American premiere.
TAO Dance Theater aims to challenge all previous conceptions of modern dance. Ye and Hao focus all their time and energy on their craft, exploring form as content, investigating musical and physical interaction, and experimenting with minimalism as well as layered patterns of gesture and spacial locomotion. They eschew the representational modes often seen in modern dance throughout China. Having collaborated with leading artists across genres, the Company has toured extensively in Europe and been featured in festivals worldwide, and includes dancer/choreographer Duan Ni, who returned to China in 2008 to work exclusively with Ye and Hao.
Chinese composer Guo Wenjing, whose opera Ye Yan/The Night Banquet had its U.S.premiere at Lincoln Center Festival 2002, returns to the Festival with the New York premiere of a new production of his 2004 chamber opera, Feng Yi Ting (“The Phoenix Pavilion”). This new work is based on a scene from a very popular Chinese tale about a woman who is so beautiful she can save an empire by causing two rival warlords to fall in love with her. It is set during the end of the Eastern Han dynasty (25 – 220 AD).
Guo Wenjing, Chair and professor of the Composition Department at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, has composed numerous works which have been performed around the globe. His music, known for its dramatic, majestic, and dreamlike lyricism, blends the musical heritage of China with stylistic elements of the late 20th century avant-garde. His music was first heard in the West in 1983.
The composer describes the opera as an unusual one for him. Embedded within his original work are traditional opera arias sung by a Sichuan opera soprano and Beijing opera countertenor. Ken Lam, winner of the 2011 Memphis International Conducting Competition and Orchestra Director at Montclair State University, will lead Ensemble ACJW—a collective of outstanding young professional musicians from Carnegie Hall and Juilliard’s The Academy —and a chamber ensemble consisting of four musicians on traditional Chinese instruments (pipa, dizi, erhu and sheng) in the performance. The U.S.premiere of Feng Yi Ting will take place at Spoleto Festival USA in May.
Film director Atom Egoyan will direct this multimedia production. The creative team includes costumes by Chinese fashion and costume designer Han Feng, most recently known for her spectacular designs for Anthony Minghella’s production of Madama Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera in 2008 and subsequently the opera version of Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter. Video in this production is by Hong Kong-based visual artist Tsang Kin-wah, with sets by Tony Award-winner Derek McLane.