Sunday, 1 November 2009

Dancers have Chinese dreaming of Wales

National Dance Company of Wales, who return to their home stage at the Wales Millennium Centre for shows on Tuesday and Wednesday, got Chinese audiences thinking about dance in a completely new way on their recent ground-breaking tour.

‘I’ve been taken to the beautiful Welsh scenery not through images, but through the movements created by the dancers and atmosphere from the music,’ enthused one student from Chongqing University, adding: 'I've dreamt about
Wales because of its beautiful countryside and today I've experienced it through dance.'

Hinterland, one of two pieces performed by the Welsh dance company, which will feature in their Cardiff shows, is based on the landscape in Wales and is choreographed to the music of Alun Hoddinott.

The five-show tour took the company to three cities – Chongqing, Kunming and Chengdu – in southwest China . This is the first time that the British Council has brought performing arts activities to Chengdu and Kunming, enabling new audiences to experience world class contemporary dance from Wales' flagship dance company for the first time ever.

The performance at Chongqing's new Grand Theatre builds on a twinning relationship between the city and Wales.

All five shows ended with a question and answer session, which gave members of the audience an opportunity to interact with the company and raise their questions about contemporary British dance.

‘For many members of the audience, the idea that the dance wasn’t necessarily meant to express a particular view or tell a pre-defined story was clearly a very new and unusual concept,’ said Sarah Deverall, British Council Director, South West China.

This new experience was greeted with enthusiasm by audience members: ‘Chinese dance tells a story, but today’s performance is more like a feeling inside – you need to imagine the beautiful scenes of Wales in your mind,’ said a media employee from Chongqing

The post-show discussions also gave the dancers a chance to know what was going through people’s minds while watching.

‘We assumed we’d have a shared language when it came to dance, but realised that European dance – particularly non-narrative dance based on emotions, like ours – is a very new idea here,’ said Ann Sholem, Artistic Director of NDCW.

For many of the dancers this was their first time working in Asia: ‘It’s been a fantastic experience opening our eyes to different ways of working – we’ll be digesting what we’ve learned over the next year,’ said Sholem.

The tour builds on two previous British Council arts projects between Wales and China - In Search of the Red Dragon and Celebrating the Red Dragon - which saw exchanges between Chinese and Welsh artists. There are plans to build more opportunities for cultural exchange between the two countries, with choreographer Rong Tao of Yu Dance in Chongqing coming to Wales to teach the company in January 2010.

National Dance Company of Wales @ Wales Millennium Centre.

Photograph: Roy Campbell-Moore.


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