Where: Shanghai Centre Theatre, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, Nanjing Xi Lu near Xikang Lu, Metro Line 2 Nanjing Xi Lu Station, 南京西路1376号, 近西康路, 地铁2号线南京西路站
Starts: Wednesday February 10, 19:45
Cover: Tickets are available at 100, 180, 280 and 380 RMB.
Judging by the general exodus of foreigners gliding up the escalators to Shanghai Centre Theatre yesterday night, it was obvious that something was going on. When you attend dance performances of the modern kind in Shanghai, you can be sure that the most part of the audience is western. As Jin Xing once put it herself, “the Chinese are used to getting fed culture for free, they’re not used to paying for it”. If so, it’s a crying shame, for what the Shanghainese missed last night was something out of the ordinary. Those of you interested can still catch it tonight though!
Jin Xing herself greeted the audience from upstage in the wide theatre. The auditorium was barely half filled, but that didn’t bother the choreographer, “I’m interested in quality not quantity. Ten years ago when my company performed in this exact theatre, the room was filled. Back then I gave away tickets to everyone, so it was easy to fill it up. Now, I don´t give away one single ticket, no one from the government gets anything, cause I love quality of the audience!”
Jin Xing, who’s had close ties to the Chinese government as her former role as a military dancer, can afford making jokes about those occupying China’s powerhouses: “You who sit in the front rows, move back, there are much better seats further back. The front row is too close, it’s for government officials.”
She disappears behind the curtain and the show begins. And what a show last night’s was.
Starting the show off was a video projection showing a sped up version of Jin Xing as her face is pasted with layer after layer of makeup, her head and body swept into the clothes of a traditional Chinese opera singer. This remains as an ideological backdrop for the whole performance: when the dancers finally enter the stage, the stage is set for ideas of beauty, traditional contra modern, western contra eastern, the act of transformation, how clothes and makeup express gender and how easily that expression is bent.
The choreography inhabits the same ideas. With distinct scene changes and acts that are esthetically diverse in both music, costume and movement, the show as a whole feels like a potpourri of smaller dance works, all expressing the same theme:
We see the 13 dancers dressed in plain business suits – the ultimate symbol of power in the west – as well as in typical Chinese silk dresses, we hear traditional percussion instruments and flutes mixed up with drum and bass, we see oriental folkloristic gestures expressed side by side with abstract contemporary dance, we see the dancers move as a tight collective versus as autonomous individuals and we see unisex outfits contra distinctly gendered ones.
The whole thing is well rhymed with the press info about Shanghai Beauty:
Conceptions of what is beautiful differ radically in the West and Asia. In China nakedness is considered superficial and unattractive. The covered, the hidden, and the non-visible qualities of the clothed human body are a key source of inspiration and fantasy. Mass in Western perception is a term for negative occupation. That´s completely different in Shanghai. There are many examples where you swim in the mass.
From these seed ideas, Jin Xing and Rubato developed a cross-cultural choreography for thirteen dancers. Themes of new versus old, individuality versus conformity, and east versus west, take on vivid forms in Shanghai Beauty.
And undoubtedly, Shanghai Beauty captures all of these ideas. But the main experience, one that fills you with a warm, bubbly feeling as you leave the auditorium – actually captures another ideal. What hits you the most – a thing that Jin Xing and her dancers are masters of mediating – is the pure and intense joy of dancing. There is such musicality in the movements, so many glimpses of playfulness and unspoiled childish joy, such groove. Just moving to the music is a mere pleasure in itself, no matter what style it might be: contemporary, jazz, folkloristic, traditional Chinese, African, you name it. The technique is, of course, splendid and the movements inspired. It’s impossible to take your eyes off the stage.
So many contemporary choreographers forget to work like this, making symbolism and ideas take over the choreography to the verge of boredom. In Shanghai Beauty, the abstract is instead paired with rhythm and aesthetic finesse.
Ai ai, Jin Xing, you’ve done it again – making us all both think and want to dance out of the theatre!
Choreography: Jin Xing (Jin Xing Dance Theatre Shanghai) in collaboration with Jutta Hell, Dieter Baumann (Tanzcompagnie Rubato Berlin)
Dance: Jin Xing Dance Theatre
Lighting Design: Jochen Massar
Costume: Jutta Hell and Jin Xing
Stage / Video: Jutta Hell, Dieter Baumann
Production commissioned by the House of the World Cultures Berlin. Co-produced with
Tanzcompagnie Rubato, Berlin and Jin Xing Dance Theatre, Shanghai, with support from
the Cultural Department of Berlin, Germany.