Card-carrying and carefree

I’ve only been here two days, but already i feel like a foreigner who belongs. I mean, I’ve become a card-carrying member of the National Library (conveniently located in an impressive new building just across the street from my hotel) and also signed up for a discount card from a nearby shop that sells sweets and all kinds of dried fruit. Now all I need is an invitation to join the Communist Party.

I’d settle instead for an all-you-can-dance pass from the BDA. The more I hang out there the more there is to see. Apparently an internationally recognised ballroom couple (he’s American, she’s German) are guest-teaching this week only. I was quite happy spending a few minutes behind glass peering into a first floor studio at young Chinese women wielding fans. Lots of wrist action required, and dipping and swaying. This was in the main building, a real layer cake of a structure with its seven studio on each of seven floors.

In one of them Jonathan Lunn seemed to be in fine fettle, as were the young men with whom he is creating Beijing Man. Or is the piece to be called Beijing Ren? The latter word means people, and that second title is the same as a play by Cao Yu who has been described to me as the Chinese Chekhov. I must remember to ask him about the significance of this reference. In any case, Lunn’s boys jump and lift, walk on their hands or stretch their legs up past their ears effortlessly. It’s bold dancing, but endowed with a certain intangible, floating quality and almost beatific in its dynamic flexibility. This is exemplified by a little dance one of the lads does while being observed by his mates. Lunn calls this soft set of moves with its curving shapes and trailing fingers the angel solo. Speaking to a handful of visitors from the British Council, the choreographer praised all six dancers for their combination of feminine delicacy and masculine force. ‘They make choices Western dancers wouldn’t necessarily make,’ he said, immediately contradicting himself by adding that he could probably name a hundred dancers from the UK or elsewhere who might make similar choices. Note, however, that his first impulse was to recognise a difference. And yet at times, Lunn said, he forgets that he’s in China working with dancers who do indeed have a different training. I wonder what he might be learning from them, or about himself and his methods… suffice to say that, cued as it is now is to percolating tracks by the American experimental electronic music duo Matmos, Beijing Man has a clockwork flow.

Earlier, upstairs in the BDA theatre, where a long row of poinsettia plants lines the base of the raised stage, Tiechun was making progress on Ghost Money. The name, as I understand it, has something to do with the notion of burning money so that deceased relatives and friends will have a rich afterlife. It was no doubt useful for Techun to see his work outside the studio, in a larger and more theatrical space. A good deal of his attention went towards the boy in the blue shirt, as I identified him yesterday. This kid’s got a reckless, tumbling insouciance that can be disarming, but that may also give Tiechun pause. Hence the extra attention. There’s a bit in the dance where he’s downstage and has to raise and grab his legs a few times, do a spin that eventually sees his arms flung behind him and then segue into a jump that ends in a hand-on-knees squat. The boy is sort of a a cross between a colt and a puppy. He has a facility, and he tries hard, but stopping on a dime every time is not necessarily his forte. Still, I enjoyed seeing him pirouette several times yesterday, just for himself I think; he finally got it right, with no wobbles, finishing with his fingers in V for victory signs. Today he eventually managed what Tiechun needs, at least once, and presumably will do so again.

I ended the day with a dusky walk through Zizhuyuan, or Black Bamboo, Park. One of the entrances is just across the street from BDA. The park has something like three lakes, two islets and two rivers running through it. There was a half-moon tonight, and bats dancing beneath the willows. I wonder, given its proximity to BDA, how many dance people follow its paths while clearing their heads about their various lessons or projects.

1 comment to Card-carrying and carefree

  • Ursula

    So good to read your experiences. I finally managed to open that blog. The nearest way is sometimes just not visible!
    Saw the half moon too last night, half a world apart…

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