And so it begins

After years of discussion, months of planning, weeks, days, hours and minutes of weaving, ducking and diving through the expected and unexpected, we are here in Beijing, at Beijing Dance Academy. We are in a studio, alone, except for Shobana, and the dancer/demonstrator Avatara Ayuso, the BDA dancers, the interpreters, the organisers, the academics, the documentors, the student documentors; all watching and waiting.

It is a relief and a pleasure to be in a studio – a place of work that brings us back to the floor and the simple and challenging task of standing up, of being present. The abstractions of the discussions and the planning fall away and are replaced by the grounded theory of dancing and dance making. Every studio in which this takes place is complex, and this one may be more complex than most; but still there is a groundedness that acts as an anchor, a reference point in all of the complexity. It is the physical in the metaphysical, the made fleshness of the studio that serves as a compass in our navigation of the unfamiliar. The dancers and Shobana are each testing the space, they are finding the restless flow and sudden surprises in her phrases, and she is building the language that will guide this process.

In the studio just below us, Zhang Yunfeng is beginning to work and Liu Yan has joined the cast of dancers of the BDA Company for the first time since the accident which took place during the final rehearsals for the opening of the Beijing Olympics. Yunfeng knows the dancers well and they are focused on the detail of the impetus, and the control and flow of the movement. The tiniest flick of the hand, the subtlest shift of the foot are all under examination.

Around this grounded activity, the excitement is palpable – the corridor is full of students between classes and curious at the invasion of their everyday routines, as we are curious about those everyday routines. Korean traditional music emanates from the studio next door, next to that the drums of a folk dance class, next to that latin rhythms of a ballroom dance class, and finally a ballet adagio… this is a dance conservatoire filled with surprises for many of us. But here, what we are doing has added yet another dimension to this richness – the focus on choreographic process which brings academics to the studio is special – the abstraction of the preparation falls away; and so it begins.

Chris Bannerman

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