Struggling for Autonomy of Expression
In the context of an emerging independent art and culture scene in China, the Living Dance Studio in Beijing, founded in 1994 by the choreographer Wen Hui, has been an important factor in the development of new performance forms. The activities of the Living Dance Studio are tolerated but not supported by the state. Performances are held on private invitation. The Living Dance Studio´s best-known production, the 1999 “Report on Giving Birth”, paints a panorama of the last 50 years of upheaval and changing circumstances in Chinese society from a women´s point of view.
The emergence of independent art circles in the People´s Republic of China remains a difficult process to this day; it did not gain momentum until the nineties, but it quickly met with international interest. The visual arts and cinema blazed a trail (at the beginning of the 1990s the Chinese film epics ("Judou, 1990” and “Raise the Red Lantern” won prizes at major film festivals); in the dance and theatre spheres it was more difficult to develop genres that moved beyond classical, tradition forms and communicate them to the West.
In 1996, at the festival Theater der Welt in Dresden, the “Xu Ju Che Jian”, the “Theater Garage” from Beijing, founded in 1993, presented a production by the director Mou Sen, who has been producing free, documentary theatre since 1987. The dancer Jin Xing, who appeared in 2002 at Berlin´s first “InTransit” festival in the production “Person to Person”, founded her independent Modern Dance Company in Shanghai in 1994 in the face of great resistance.
In that same year, 1994, the choreographer Wen Hui founded the Living Dance Studio in Beijing, one of the very few experimental organizations of this kind in China. It is defined more as a collective working forum for choreographers and other artists in the performing arts. Its goal is to reflect contemporary Chinese society using the resources of a new, multimedia, interdisciplinary dance theatre which rises above ordinary stylistic orientations. "For me modern dance is an expression of identity, an interpretation of one´s own life," says Wen Hui.
In keeping with the growing interest in ways of perceiving personal fates and the individual experience of history and social change, Wen Hui initiated the project “Report on Giving Birth” in the Living Dance Studio. It is based on a large number of one-on-one interviews with women who have given birth to one or more children. Members of all social classes and professions, age ranging from 20 to 90 years, are asked about their experience of giving birth, and about their contributions to their specific social macroclimates (socialist reconstruction of society, the Cultural Revolution, socialist capitalism, orientation toward the free market).
Staged using a wide variety of theatrical devices, audiovisual material, a script by the writer Feng Dehua, and film material by the well-known documentary filmmaker Wu Wenguang, “Report on Giving Birth” and the work of the Living Dance Studio represent an important step in the development of independent dance theatre in China. Performed for the first time in 1999, “Report on Giving Birth” has been shown at numerous European festivals and theatres.
Author: Franz Anton Cramer
Wen Hui was born in 1960 in the Chinese province of Yunnan. She began her dance training with traditional dance techniques at the Art Academy of Yunnan (1974 to 1980). From 1985 to 1989 she studied at the Choreography Department of the Beijing Dance Academy. Further stations in her training were the Limón Institute, the Erik Hawkins School of Dance and the Trisha Brown Company, all in New York. Drawing on this wealth of artistic experience, Wen Hui choreographed for the “Oriental Song and Dance Ensemble of China”, before founding the Living Dance Studio in 1994. It gets by without any state subsidies whatsoever; as a rule, the productions cannot be shown publicly. Thus, Wen Hui´s work exists in a semi-public grey area of state toleration.
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
Customs – Nothing to declare
(30 May 03 - 14 June 03)