Modern Dance “Boom” Expected In China

Seventh China Lotus Award Modern And Contemporary Dance Competition Recently Held In Inner Mongolia

Photos from the China Lotus Award competion (Image: Ye Jin)

Photos from the China Lotus Award competion (Image: Ye Jin)

Though modern dance is not exactly new to China, having taken root there nearly 70 years ago, it remains very much a niche art form. Up to this point, China has had only about six professional modern dance companies, and audience numbers have remained limited despite steady increases since the late 1980s. To discuss the future of modern dance and stage performances by some of the country’s top dance troupes, recently the seventh annual China Lotus Award Modern and Contemporary Dance Competition was held in Ordos, Inner Mongolia. This year’s competition attracted nearly 2,000 dancers from 60 professional dance troupes nationwide, with a total of 13 modern dance works and 39 contemporary dance works competing for titles including best work, best choreography and best presentation.

According to the Beijing Review, this year’s event indicated to many observers that modern dance in China is gradually progressing from imitation to sinicization. From the Beijing Review‘s coverage of the China Lotus Award competition:

Regarding modern dance, an art form introduced to China 70 years ago, there were new trends that were worth thinking about, said Luo Bin, Director of the Institute of Dance Studies of the Chinese National Academy of Arts, and a member of the jury of the Ordos competition.

“From these modern dance works, we can see individual spirit has been presented very well. The works reflect free thinking and the desire of choreographers and dancers to express their individual ideas. At the same time, we also saw a variety of presentation methods, which feature either intense conflict of inner feelings or humorous choreographic styles,” Luo said.

Solos, duets and trios were the majority of the works in the competition, Luo said. This means modern dance artists are inclining to the development of individuality and creativity.

He also said modern dance works in the competition reflected changes in creative concepts, which might be a sign of the burgeoning of the sinicization of modern dance.

“It might be too early to say it, but I think at least we found many choreographers are exploring on the road of sinicization,” he said. “Because of the great variety of ways of presentation in modern dance, the traditional understanding of people about modern dance is changing. It is a gradual change, very delicate.”

During the competition, audiences could easily find many traditional Chinese cultural and artistic elements in the works, which was very different from the traditional understanding of people of this art. It was also an interesting phenomenon to the jury, Luo said.

“Members of the jury had a heated discussion on following topics: Whether modern dance has lost its core characteristics in China? Whether Chinese modern dance creators have not found a clear direction for future development?” Luo said. “We need to clarify what modern dance should pursue. After all, modern dance is not just an art form, and it embodies people’s concepts and ways of thinking.”

He said currently many modern dance works in China lacked deep thinking or were staying in a state of imitation or repetition, which might be caused by unclear understanding of modern dance.

This, he said, was one of the possibilities of sinicization of modern dance, an inevitable phase of the development of the art form in China.

Video of the competition, via CNTV:

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