Promising Emerging Arts
Exclusive interview with chinese contemporary dance artistzhaoliang
CHINA PICTORIAL: What inspired the creation of The Tea Spell?
Zhao Liang: I’m not great at planning and tend to follow my heart. A work is like a child, and I’d rather wait for them to come to me. I never imagined creating anything based on tea. When I got to really know tea culture, I realized how wonderful tea is. The original power of “tea” has already mixed with oriental culture and the world as a whole.
CP: Why did you choose to fuse various elements like Chinese Kung Fu, traditional Chinese opera and Japanese Noh?
Zhao: Dance itself is expression with bodies and doesn’t need that many labels. Labels are used to define art better, not to label anything clearly known. There shouldn’t be any limit on art. Everything in the world is related to each other. Artistic expression is a means to promote oneself, transcend oneself and connect with everything in the world. As more and more art works that transcend different areas have emerged, I believe we will see an increasing number of these kinds of works.
CP: What kind of oriental aesthetics does The Tea Spell deliver? How does it attract foreign spectators?
Zhao: So- called “oriental aesthetics” is too vague a conception. Every person can only represent himself or herself. With the label of “oriental aesthetics” stripped, The Tea Spell adopts popular methods of artistic expression. Chinese spectators will find it pioneering, while western audiences find it fantastic because they have never before seen such a performance and can’t name it.
I never worry that foreign spectators will have a hard time understanding my work because art is universally interlinked. As the creator, I don’t define my work. The audience will offer their own answers according to their experience and understanding. The audience and the creator are interactioned but free.
Western audiences are unfamiliar with the system of oriental aesthetics. Our generation doesn’t need to comply with or play up to western aesthetics. Instead, we should question and converse with the culture and the tradition in our blood. Something that cannot be defined easily today is perhaps what we need most.
CP: What do you think of the relation between tradition and modernity? What enlightenment can The Tea Spell bring to modern Chinese dance?
Zhao: Tradition doesn’t always remain unchanged. It absorbs elements of every age and every event and continues to exist. If something survives generations and still exists, it has to keep absorbing and evolving. This is what inheriting is all about.
In fact, elements from all kinds of art can be combined. Through this very series of operas including The Tea Spell, I want to show others that modern dance can be presented in this way. We not only feel our bodies move our own way, but also connect with the material world through different methods.
Zhao Liang has paved a unique road to modern expression through Chinese dance. by Wang Pengfei