In the rehearsal room of the Beijing Contemporary Dance Theater (BCDT), Wang Yuanyuan, the artistic director, and her dancers are in the process of preparing their new piece, Colors of Love, which is set to be performed in Beijing’s Poly Theater on December 16-17 as part of the troupe’s anniversary celebration.
Yan Xiaoxiang, one of the principal male dancers, stands opposite to Zhang Xiaochuan, a strikingly tall and slender girl. When the music comes on, Yan moves closer and closer to Zhang. He tries to hold her hand, but she evades him like a shy bird. She turns her back to him but he takes a step forward and stretches his arm out, touching her skin gently with his fingertips. His affection, adoration and passion transmit itself to her through his touch and then his hand slides down her head and neck to her shoulder and arms. Yet when he tries to embrace her she runs away with anxiety.
From a female choreographer’s angle, Wang says, “Women’s emotions are decidedly different from men’s. All women want security, stability, and a peaceful environment.”
Based on this idea, Colors of Love explores women’s psychology and attitude to love, family, and life at the different ages of 20, 30 and 40.
Through artful combinations of dance and symbolic stage design the piece takes the audience through experiences of joy and pain. Every movement, facial expression and eye contact reflects its choreographer’s deep understanding of love and life. And thought root in classic ballet movements, it is enriched by an open and bold style and choreography.
Colors of Love consists of three parts. Sprouting shows the attraction, hopes and desires between a man and woman in the early stages of love; Starting with lingering and lustful scenes on a sofa, the second work, Betrayal, reveals the incompatibility and dilemmas within a relationship; while Exile presents people’s selfishness, hysteric aspects and a woman’s mental struggle with her traditional beliefs of marriage.
Colors of Love was originally choreographed by Wang for the Royal Danish Dance Theater (RDDT) and was premiered in Copenhagen back in 2006. Now, three years later, Wang combines the RDDT adaptation with a selection of her best works from the past ten years.
“Western dancers are different from Asian dancers physically and mentally,” Wang explains. “When dancers are different, you need modify the dance, because dancers have different temperament like different materials have different texture quality. To make the dance work, you need know their temperament, personality, and know how to make the best use of their specialty in your work. I know my dancers; I know what they can do, and what they can’t.”
While BCDT was preparing its upcoming performance, one of most influential American modern dance companies, José Limón Dance Company, which has been performing for over 60 years, was wowing Beijing audiences with its repertoire.
“Do you want us to compete with them? Their history – we cannot beat it,” Yuan says while laughing. “In the early stage of modern dance, the major American dance troupes, such as José Limón and Martha Graham all styled and developed their own form of movements to separate their dance from ballet. These dance systems have become their feature and the culture of each dance troupe. When modern dance develops to today, I don’t think it is necessary to strictly develop the dance style under a certain system. I won’t pay much attention to developing my dance systems but I believe if I insist on my own creation and continually work on that even I will change my style sometimes – I will still style my feature and my specialty.”
As a new modern dance group, since its founding BCDT has been continually striving to be different. During the last year it has launched many new works with diverse styles, including the international collaboration, Prism, a Chinese love story, Stirred From a Dreams, and Haze with its heavy social theme.
And during President Obama’s visit to China, BCDT, in collaboration with the Beijing New Music Ensemble, organized an Obama Welcome Concert at Beijing’s Penghao Theater. Although Obama ended up being too busy to attend, the concert received glowing reviews on the White House’s own website.
Despite its youth, BCDT is forcing itself to be taken seriously, and those in Beijing on December 16-17 would do well to make their way over to the Poly Theater.