DanceWorks kicks off the season with Wen Wei Dance’s Made in China – an interdisciplinary performance uniting the talents of four creators whose art practices have been influenced by China’s Cultural Revolution. Three of the artists, Wen Wei Wang (Artistic Director, Wen Wei Dance); Yanjinzi Gao (Artistic Director, Beijing Modern Dance Company); and Qiu Xia He (Musician, Silk Road Music) grew up in China and studied traditional arts from a young age. Video/sound artist Sammy Chien, who immigrated to Canada from Taiwan, is their younger counterpart.
“All my work”, explains Wang, “comes from my experience growing up. But this work is not narrative, and it’s not only about me. It’s about how “made in China” is starting to mean something else. It is about people in China needing art, and producing it.”
Here, we interview Wen Wei Wang to gain insight in to his point of view and creative process.
DANCEWORKS: Hello, Wen Wei. Can you talk about the development of your company, Wen Wei Dance? When and why did you start the company?
WEN WEI WANG: I stopped dancing for Ballet BC in 2000, and became a freelance choreographer and dancer. Since then, I have created a number of works and each has brought me closer to my ideal destination – to be known as a choreographer with a strong voice. The Firehall Arts Centre (in Vancouver) commissioned Tao, a full-length piece, which gave me the confidence to be myself and to speak from the roots of my being. Then, in 2003, I formed Wen Wei Dance. In 2006, I received a CanDance Network Creation Fund commission for a major work titled Unbound. The piece premiered at the Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa and then we embarked on a tour of major Canadian cities.
DANCEWORKS: Made in China is an interdisciplinary work. Can you talk about your experience working with other artists?
WEN WEI WANG: This is the first time that I can speak my own mother tongue (Chinese) in rehearsal, and it has been truly a collaborative project. It is simultaneously challenging, exciting, and intimidating, because we are each different artists sharing our own creativity.
DANCEWORKS: For you, is there a particular moment in Made in China that is most significant?
WEN WEI WANG: There is one section, where the musician Qiu Xia He sings an old folk song from my hometown while I am speaking and shouting in my own native dialect (Xi’an dialect). The folk song is called Thirty Miles Away, it is a song about being away, and it gives an undertone of hopelessness and a sense of longing. In my own native dialect, I call out something similar to this:
Where is home?
You have nowhere to go
You have no place to stay
You have nothing left to eat
Why are you going?
DANCEWORKS: Thank you for sharing, Wen Wei.
DanceWorks presents Wen Wei Dance’s Made in China on October 21 & 22, 2016 at 8pm at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Click here to purchase tickets.
Photo credit Donald Lee