China Watchers Have Hopes for Modern Dance

Article excerpt

BEIJING--Almost everyone in China will tell you that the country's political system must change. From business to the arts individuals are tugging at the seams of communism. Most people feel that the Chinese government has moved neither fast enough nor far enough in expropriating successful foreign ideas. And China's artists are still recovering from the Cultural Revolution, from 1967 to 1977, when almost an entire generation of artists was annihilated for political reasons.

Today an inflexible and far-reaching political system maintains dancers onstage long past their prime, while lack of funding inhibits cultural exchange programs, and a deficiency of contemporary choreography keeps China's premiere dance companies out of stride with their Western equivalents. Comparing their situation with that of professionals in science, technology, sports, and medicine, today's dancers are anxious to progress and to adapt Western training to meet their needs.

To some extent international comparison has urged change: socialist realism and romanticism are slowly being supplanted on Chinese stages; while modern dance techniques and experimental forms of expression are being introduced. Yet today's Chinese modern dancers are more aggressive than lyrical, less interested in telling stories than in punching out messages. Thwarted by censorship and the pervasiveness of politics, they find it hard to indulge in fantasy. Outside observers hope that through continued cultural exchange and the recent establishment of two modern dance companies, in Guangzhou and Beijing, creative freedom will get a foothold. …