We often hear the phrase “Made In China” as something not desired. Westerners, and even some within our own culture, consider anything made in China to be cheap and low quality. It’s sad to hear because our culture has such a rich artistic history that should not be forgotten.
There is a beautiful dance performance coming to Toronto this month that has drawn my attention. Vancouver’s Wen Wei Dance company brings their latest acclaimed interdisciplinary work, Made in China, to Harbourfront Centre Theatre as part of Toronto’s DanceWorks contemporary dance series. Two nights have been confirmed for the performance: October 21 & 22.
Artist Director Wen Wei Wang explains that the work comes from his experience growing up as a Chinese-Canadian. Although it’s not only about his experience, the performance is co-created and performed by Wang and three other artists: Gao Yanjinzi, Artistic Director of Beijing Modern Dance Company; Qiu Xia He, award-winning classical Chinese musician of Vancouver’s Silk Road Music; and video and sound artist Sammy Chien. Made in China takes the perspective from the artists, their life stories and shared cultural history. Each choreographed piece explores memories of their childhood in China and life journeys. “It is about people in China needing art, and producing it,” explains Wang.
Wen Wei Wang began dancing at an early age in China, where he was born and raised. He trained and danced professionally with the Langzhou Song and Dance Company. In 1991, he came to Canada and joined the Judith Marcuse Dance Company after which he danced with Ballet British Columbia for seven years. In 2000, he received the Clifford E. Lee Choreographic Award. Since 2003, he has served as Artistic Director of Wen Wei Dance, choreographing six full-length works for the company and winning awards for Cock-Pit (2009, Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award) and Unbound (2006, Isadora Award for Excellence in Choreography and Performance). In addition to his works for Wen Wei Dance, he has choreographed for the Alberta Ballet, Ballet BC, Ballet Jorgen, Dancers Dancing North West Dance Projects in Portland, the Vancouver Opera (Nixon in China), the San Francisco Opera and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (BJM). He is also an Associate Dance Artist of Canada’s National Arts Centre.
Gao Yanjinzi is the Artistic Director and one of the founding members of Beijing Modern Dance Company. Her work draws on her Buddhist upbringing and traditional Chinese dance training. In a contemplative, harmonious world, her dancers move with a natural flow of energy – yet surprises lurk around every turn, causing audiences to question the legitimacy of such binaries as “traditional/modern” and “East/West.” She performs and presents her work throughout Asia, Europe, Australia and North America and has received numerous awards both in China and abroad, including the Grand Prix at the 12th International Modern Choreography Competition in Belarus for her piece Worlds (1999) and leading Italian dance magazine Danza e Danza Award for Best Performance for Jue-Aware (2006). Ms Gao has received commissions to create works for such festivals as the Berlin Art Festival, Italy’s Biennale de Venezia, and the Singapore Dance Festival. Ms Gao was personally invited by Pina Bausch to create and perform a solo work, As I Heard, to premiere in Ms Bausch’s dance festival in Wuppertal, Germany in November, 2008.
Qiu Xia He was born in the province of Shaanxi China and has had two notable careers in music: as a performer and teacher back home, and then as performer, composer, producer and teacher in Canada since 1989. She has devoted all her life to the performing arts. Her broad interests include singing, dancing and world instruments, but her main focus is the Chinese Pipa. It has a 2000 year history and is linked to the Middle-Eastern Oud. The four strings are plucked with all five fingernails of the right hand. Since her arrival in Canada, Ms He has launched a very successful series of cross-cultural musical projects that have helped smash stereotypes about Chinese music. She is a pioneer and key player in the vibrant multicultural music scene of Vancouver that thrives today. Starting in 1991, she toured extensively across the country and around the world. Her own group Silk Road Music has earned a Juno nomination, two Canadian Folk Music nominations and garnered two West Coast Music Awards. Her compositions include the soundtracks for Leo-nominated films such as Tears of a Lotus, Darcy Island and the movie In Our Own Hands. In addition, Qiu Xia founded the Enchanted Evenings concert series at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver.
Sammy Chien brings a technological thrust to Made in China, contributing electroacoustic music and digital imagery. He is a Taipei-born, Vancouver-based interdisciplinary media artist who seeks to merge cinema, sound art, new media and dance performance techniques into a new individual practice. He studied film at Simon Fraser University (BFA Honors) and has collaborated visually, aurally and conceptually in numerous multi-disciplinary projects ranging from film, theatre, dance and audiovisual performance to interactive installations which have exhibited across Canada, Western Europe and Asia including Centre Pompidou (Paris), Museum of Contemporary Arts Taipei, National Centre for the Performing Arts (Beijing) and Hellerau: European Centre for the Arts Dresden. His collaboration with Wen Wei Dance and the Beijing Modern Dance Company has led him to work with artists such as Wong Kar Wai’s cinematographer Christopher Doyle and the Father of Rock in China, Cui Jian, as well as having lunch with Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei. Sammy is the Co-Founder/Co-Artistic Director of Chimerik collective, which is a vision, philosophy and imaginative environment that values creative technology and new media practices as important vehicles capable of bridging various art forms to construct new kinds of artistic engagement and language that are trans-national, trans-cultural and prompt social change.
Made in China will also be touring Halifax (October 6 to 8) and Montreal (October 14 & 15), prior to its Toronto dates (October 21 & 22)
For more information visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com