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Breathe, Dance, Live

Immerse yourself in a cool pool of modern dance as the Sixth Beijing International Theater and Dance Festival floods the city.

Energetic, flexible, artistic, graceful, passionate, dynamic and abstract – one of modern dance’s defining characteristics is its endless diversity of definition. The versatile art form explores the beauty and power of the human body in a way that throws off the rigid control of classical ballet and other tra

ditional dance styles. Since its foundation in the early 20th century, modern dance has been a wide, open road across the world of dance, allowing artists extraordinary freedom and originality in self-expression. This December, the Sixth Beijing International Theater & Dance Festival opens a treasure chest of recently produced works for audiences to enjoy.

If the Beijing premiere of the Martha Graham Dance Company made a big stir in November, Jennifer Muller/The Works, Beijing Modern Dance Company and Jin Xing Modern Dance Theater are prepared to take audiences to a whole new world of movement this month. Jennifer Muller/The Works incorporates video projections and unique stage props to create a show as unusual as it is exciting, while the stunning dancers from Beijing Modern Dance Company will impress audiences with the China premiere of Women of the World, a co-production between two female choreographers, China’s Gao Yanjinzi and Holland’s Anouk van Dijk. The theme of “women” continues to dominate the stage in Made In China – Return of The Soul, performed by Jin Xing Modern Dance Company. The performance leaps back in time to grab Du Liniang, a character from classic Kunqu opera, as a means of adding historical perspective to a modern woman’s outlook on love.

Lauded as “sensual, luminous, and impassioned,” the repertoire of Jennifer Muller/The Works is based on a multicultural, multiracial platform that reflects the company’s commitment to promote cross-cultural understanding. After touring 37 countries, they finally land in China to present Human/Nature and Passion & Promise, which will include the world premiere of their new dance, Aria. Artistic director and founder Jennifer Muller has been creating pieces since age seven; she began dancing professionally at age 15. She says that her dancers “not only have technical virtuosity, but combine it with exuberant vitality, emotional credibility and generosity of spirit. Each dancer is distinctly individual, but together they work as a strong integrated ensemble.”

Jennifer Muller/The Works will perform two nights at the Egg. Human/Nature, on the first evening, will include three pieces: Flower, which is combined with projected images from renowned photographer Barbara Bordnick, draws a dazzling picture of the colors of seasons; Island is inspired by photographs of wild horses on Sable Island taken by Roberto Dutesco; Momentum is an ode to the energy and sprit of New York City. On the second evening, they will deliver Passion & Promise, which includes two of Jennifer Muller’s newest creations: Edge is set to the infectious Belgian/African music of Zap Mama and Aria, which took Muller about eight months to complete, is a sequence of seven solos, duets and trios set to Mozart’s opera music. Muller says she hopes that the passion, pathos and humor of the pieces will be memorable and inspiring for audiences

Meanwhile, the achievement of Jin Xing – the acclaimed Chinese ballerina, modern dancer and choreographer – is to infuse Chinese traditional art into her modern dance. Inspired by Peony Pavilion, a classic opera, Made In China – Return of The Soul is Jin’s most recent work, presenting the widely different perspectives on life and love held by modern Chinese women and their ancient counterparts.

Jin’s unusual life experience (she is a male-to-female transsexual) has given her a deep understanding and a special artistic insight into the world of women in love. “I want to present audiences with the aesthetic beauty of love through stage art,” Jin says. “The modern woman’s perspective on love is too practical, too commercial. I hope I can wake up the pure, real love through dance.” The German composer Lutz Glandien was invited to compose the music. After the Beijing performance, Jin will take her team on their European tour.

The festival’s final cross-cultural co-production is Women of the World, which premiered at the Holland Dance Festival last November. This dance is divided into two parts, choreographed respectively by two outstanding female artists, Gao Yanjinzi and Anouk van Dijk, whose cultural differences are surmounted by their common bond – both are strong, resolute mothers and successful artists.

In Gao’s Offering, audiences will feel the choreographer’s Buddhist influence; the dancers’ refined movements are governed by the natural flow of energy – the same theory of breath as exists in tai chi. The dance is saturated with a deep sense of Chinese culture, and it is not difficult to pick out the influence of Peking opera running through the piece. In the second half, van Dijk brings her unique touch to Bliss, which is about people simply being – dealing with life and each other. It offers an intriguing combination of virtuoso dance and strong theatrical concepts. “The complexities, the contradictions, the risks, the small moments of beauty, the sorrow – it’s all in there just like in real life. I want the audience to experience that as unprepared as possible,” says van Dijk.

Perhaps this lack of preparation is exactly the way to approach the entire genre of modern dance, with a mind as open and willing to wander as the dances themselves.

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