Not-to-miss shows at the first-ever China Contemporary Dance Biennial

Pieces that capture the spirit of the time and age in which we are living

Photographs: courtesy National Young Dancers Development Plan - China Contemporary Dance Biennial
The Shanghai audience is no stranger to modern dance. Originating in the West around the turn of the 20th century, the art form was seen as a deliberate rejection of the strict movements and constraining garments in classical ballet. In the ‘20s, modern dancers like Ruth St Denis, Ted Shawn and Irma Duncan first crossed the Shanghai stage and by the ‘90s, the country’s foremost independent contemporary dance company, the Jin Xing Dance Theatre, was established.

Now, the first-ever China Contemporary Dance Biennial takes place from now until Saturday (August 31). Moving away from pieces that take inspiration from ancient literature or mythology, those chosen for the biennial comment on societal issues, tackle the deepest human emotions and try to capture the spirit of the time and age in which we are living.
From 3200 to 0 & 32 Chapters

From 3200 to 0 & 32 Chapters

Tibetan choreographer and dancer Zhaxi Wangjia’s poignant performance takes audiences on a journey from his hometown in Qinghai to Beijing where he pursued a dancing career in Modern Dance at Beijing Dance Academy. As the altitude changes from 3,200 metres to zero, his Tibetan identity is under threat. In 32 Chapters, choreographed by Wen Xiaochao, life is like a book – full of dreams, love lost and loneliness. 

From IN

From IN

Inspired by the Chinese character for person (人), formed by connecting two strokes at the top, choreographer Xie Xin believes we use our shared memories, both personal and collective ones, to form human connections. Without memories, we are essentially living in parallels. Expect a performance filled with emotion, desire and even violence by a brilliant ensemble of 11 dancers.

 Everyone's Elephant

Everyone's Elephant

Premiered at the Shanghai International Dance Center in 2017, choreographer Chang Xiaoni and his ensemble use different theatrical forms to capture the image of an elephant in a house – a metaphor for a collective silence towards the truths in life we refuse to talk about. The piece begs a simple question: what would you do when facing a truth you wouldn’t dare speak of?

Don’t I Know You

Don’t I Know You

Mixing elements from tai chi and swing dance, two forms of movement with vastly different origins, Li Chao, choreographer of Beijing National Theatre’s original Cinderella opera, blends tradition and modernity.
The Chinese title Nihao Mosheng is a play on words, translating to ‘You are a stranger to me’ or ‘I embrace the unknown,’ and may be the underlying theme of the performance – to challenge our comfort zones.

Web Traffic

Web Traffic

A brilliant mixture of dance, theatre and visual art, this performance focuses on the life of female live streamer Liu Xiaoliang, performed by the talented Jiang Fan (who’s also the choreographer), navigating the digital world and coming to terms with who she is. Switching back and forth between a hyped-up digital native and a lonely young woman, Liu’s piece is a brilliant social commentary on the anxiety caused by the virtual world.

I Didn’t Say Anything

I Didn’t Say Anything

One of the more abstract performances in the biennial. Performed by Beijing Dance Academy graduate Lei Yan and choreographed by herself and her husband Lian Guodong, this piece experiments with the many possibilities of body language with the help of objects. Boxing gloves as shoes, broken glass bottles as props – the performance, without any spoken word, is intense and powerful. 

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