Chinese dance strives for cultural unity

Under the Skin is a multi-cultural collaborative performance with Chinese choreographers Wen Wei Wang and Gao Yanjinzi, “We speak different languages and we have different skin, but under the skin we are all equal,” says Wang.

By Megan Rudson

Wen Wei Wang after the performance (Megan Rudson photo)

Under the Skin is a multi-cultural collaborative performance with Chinese choreographers Wen Wei Wang and Gao Yanjinzi, “We speak different languages and we have different skin, but under the skin we are all equal,” says Wang.

Wang emphasizes the importance of cultural mixing and individuality through his dance, In Transition.

Wang moved from China to Canada in 1991. He created In Transition using six dancers from the Beijing Modern Dance Company.

“When North American people think of the Chinese, they think of chopsticks,” says Wang. In an attempt to break this stereotype, Wang combines modern Canadian dancers and trained Chinese dancers to create In Transition.

“In Transition is about the freedom of who we are and what we want to achieve,” says Wang.

Gao Yanjinzi’s piece, Journey to the East, combines modern and Chinese dance.  The dance combines traditional and modern movement.

“For me, personally, it showed incredible ability of the dancers to interpret the world around them. All the water imagery…how fluid the bodies were,” says Gay Hauser, general manager of Live Art Dance.

Under The Skin debuted to its Halifax audience this past Saturday at the Rebecca Cohn theatre in the Dalhousie Arts Centre. “Comments from our audience through a survey showed the level of satisfaction was very, very high for this show,” says Hauser.

Live Art is a contemporary dance presenter that works to bring shows, like Wang’s, to Halifax. Under the Skin was put in the Live Art program last spring.

“We had Wen Wei here previously and our patrons really liked the work that Wen Wei brought here, so we knew that there would be an audience. When we saw it at the dance festival we were thrilled at how good they were,” says Hauser.

Gay Hauser (first women on left) informs people of Live Art at their desk set-up outside of Cohn theatre (Megan Rudson photo)

Wang created In Transition to show who these dancers really are and to disprove the Chinese stereotype. “I want to bring the people, who they are, and not the Chinese that we think. They are just like us. They have emotions, they have desires, they have struggles and they are just people.”

Instead of morphing the Chinese dance into a modern North American form, Wang combines the two cultures by bringing Chinese and Canadian dancers together. “The training is different and the way we work. They all understand movement. The Canadian dancers are more open and they do a lot of improvisations. The Beijing dancers are more closed, they dance and it looks like they come from some training.”

Wang wants to show his audience that, no matter the background or culture, everyone is equal. Hauser says, “As a new Canadian, he wanted people to recognize that while we have different cultures around the world, we are all the same human underneath and we are all the same as dancers.”