Philosophy and Ideology in Dance
Each culture has examples of its specific expressions that cross borders and oceans, philosophies and ideologies. They mix and mingle, enrich and enhance other art forms and societies, explain their origins and purpose to others and even reinvent themselves, especially in the hands of extraordinary artists that have defied the ordinary successfully.
In our world most professions can be fairly successfully practised after only a very few years. However in the field of the arts longer practise makes more perfect. Especially the discipline of dance requires a long an arduous training period and only the best will survive and have a long artistic career.
Such is the case with Xing Bang Fu, whose Chinese upbringing and vigorous and very rounded and lengthy education and training predestined him to explore all aspects of dance in their roots as cultural expressions, those of the eastern world and also the western one. Thus we benefit from his vast understanding of cultural expressions, especially where movement is concerned. Familiar with the Chinese theatrical arts, as well as the martial arts, classical and modern western dance could only enhance his deep understanding of human nature and expressions of life regardless of ethnic origin. However it is the richness of Chinese culture that he brings to us in new and unexpected ways.
Last we admired his Love Project and await further instalments, as he tells stories in more than one chapter. Recently we were introduced to another story beginning, the one of Ink.
Painting and writing in ink has long history in China. The preparations alone on how to use ink from a stone, how to handle the brush properly in fluid motions, how to master the multitude of symbols in calligraphy, and how all this relates to the basic philosophy of yin and yang, without which there could not be harmony in the universe, all this finds expression in this new work by Xing.
pictures courtesy of Xing Ballet Theatre
One marvels at his intuitiveness and the way he inspires the contributing artists of the production. His young dancers are well indoctrinated into the choreography and the philosophy behind it. The five scenes each embody a chapter of the preparation and usage of ink within the concept of yin and yang, and while human figures are the symbols we can also appreciate that they embody characters much more intense than for instance a painting could try to explain the philosophy or ideology behind the use of ink.
Xing mentioned that he has not solved yet how to express some of the future chapters of the story in development.
We find what he has done so far fascinating and perfect, even if we do not understand instantly all the intricacies of his symbolism. The concept is very clear. The use of Tai Chi movements, western and eastern dance traditions mingling and requiring enormous control and strength alone demonstrate the essence of oriental integrity of old. Endurance, the striving for perfection and harmony, patience and beauty bring a timelessness of universal truths to the fore.
This story in black and white can be effective with a few dancers as well as with a larger group of dancers, here six of them in the opening scene. Solo parts stand out, like Davidson Jaconello’s jagged movement piece, which he performed in exacting perfection. He was just accepted as an apprentice at the Alberta Ballet next season.
A Pas de Deux with the young Sarah Amaral, another one of Xing’s gifted pupils, was equally exacting in its classical ballet elements. The experienced and elegant Simon Sylvain Lalonde partnered perfectly with her, giving the impression of ink touching paper in a masterly and skilled way, illustrating harmony and perfection as in the precepts of yin and yang, as in a great love affair between man and woman.
Finally a solo by Xing himself, lost in slow motion, developing a universe yet to be discovered, the yin that has not found its yang yet, or the creator who is contemplating the way life can or should exist, devoid of unnecessary frills and ruffles, but in serene simplicity, withstanding challenges with dignity and decorum, not pompous gestures.
The costumes were designed by Eric Wong, and reinforce and underline the theme in their shape or shapelessness as an androgynous characteristic.
In Ink we learn to appreciate oriental culture with its historical philosophy and ideology. The bridge that Xing Bang Fu is building to our culture is facilitated by his understanding of both Orient and Occident and the brilliant use of all artistic measures at his disposal; including the use of highly interpretive jazz music by pianists Bill Evans and Keith Jarret.
The next chapter of Ink is as eagerly awaited as a sequel to a good book.
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