Chore­og­ra­pher dis­cov­ers the color in hu­man move­ment

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By CHEN­NAN chen­nan@chi­

At a late-af­ter­noon re­hearsal in a vast stu­dio at Hou Ying Dance Theater on Beijing’s out­skirts, one of the dancers sud­denly sprains her an­kle. Hou Ying, the com­pany’s founder and dancer-chore­og­ra­pher, comes over to check the in­jury and tells her to rest.

“It’s just weeks to go be­fore the show. Each of the dancers is ir­re­place­able and I have to make sure of their phys­i­cal and emo­tional con­di­tion,” Housays.

She is talk­ing about the up­com­ing dance work, Tu Tu, one of her most am­bi­tious chore­o­graphic un­der­tak­ings, which will be staged in Beijing this week­end.

Over the past decade, Hou, in her 40s, has earned a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the most in­ven­tive and so­phis­ti­cated dancer-chore­og­ra­phers of the coun­try.

Among the first gen­er­a­tion of con­tem­po­rary dancers in China, Hou has been with the in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed Shen Wei Dance Art in New York for seven years. In 2008, she re­turned to China with Shen to cre­ate the eight-minute dance work The Pic­ture, which was per­formed at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Her fel­low dancer’s sprain re­minds her of a se­ri­ous spinal in­jury Hou had in 2007, when she danced with Shen Wei Dance Art.

She had to rest for a year in bed and the idea of Tu Tu started to take shape.

In 2009, Hou re­turned to China and cre­ated Tu Tu, by col­lab­o­rat­ing with Guang­dong Mod­ern Dance Com­pany, the first pro­fes­sional mod­ern dance com­pany in China.

As the ti­tle of the work im­plies — the first tu refers to the ac­tion of paint­ing and the sec­ond tu means pic­ture, Hou com­bined ab­stract body move­ments with var­i­ous colors to paint pic­tures on­stage.

How­ever, in the new version, which Hou re­made in 2014, she deleted the el­e­ments of color and kept the ab­stract body move­ments. Last July, the work pre­miered at the Open Look St. Peters­burg In­ter­na­tion­alDanceFes­ti­val, a ma­jor an­nual con­tem­po­rary dance fes­ti­val in Rus­sia. In early Novem­ber, the work was staged in Changchun in Jilin prov­ince and Guangzhou in Guang­dong prov­ince.

“The six dancers all wear deep gray clothes, and the stage is col­or­less. I want the au­di­ences to feel the trans­par­ent lines por­trayed through the body move­ments, which are sim­ple but filled with en­ergy,” she says.

The change in the work came from Hou’s per­spec­tive about con­tem­po­rary dance, which has reached a newlevel. The old version of Tu Tu, she says, was full of youth, and the new in­ter­pre­ta­tion, like Hou her­self, is much calmer and full of her artis­tic per­son­al­ity.

Hou re­calls that she has been in­ter­ested in lines and colors since she was a stu­dent.

“All my best friends were from the depart­ment of fine arts. I liked watch­ing them paintand­dosculp­tures as well as lis­ten­ing to them talk,” re­call­sHou.

Born in Changchun, Hou was trained in tra­di­tional Chi­nese clas­sic dance since she was young. How­ever, in 1995, Hou de­cided to change her way of danc­ing and joined the Guang­dong Mod­ern Dance Com­pany.

Her first chore­o­graphic work, Night of Spirit, won the top prize at a Belorus­sian­mod­ern dancecom­pe­ti­tion in 1996.

“She was a leg­end in the com­pany be­cause of her so­phis­ti­cated skills. She also shocked us by shav­ing her head and eye­brows right af­ter she joined us,” re­calls Willy Tsao, who founded the Guang­dong com­pany in 1992.

Hou still wears neat short hair, which, as she says, makes her feel in­de­pen­dent and open.

In 2001, Hou was sup­ported by Asian Cul­ture Coun­cil to go to theUnited States, where she stud­ied with dance mas­ters such as Jose Li­mon and Tr­isha Brown.

In 2011, she founded Hou Ying Dance Theater in Beijing and cre­ated works such as In­ter­face, In­fi­nite and The Mo­ment.

To con­cen­trate


her chore­og­ra­phy, Hou rarely takes com­mis­sion jobs, not­ing that con­tem­po­rary dance is still a mi­nor­ity taste in China.

“As an artist, you have to be­lieve in your work and your in­stinct. When­ev­ermy work is be­ing staged, I sit among the au­di­ence and enjoy it,” she says. “It’smy own lan­guage.”

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