Beijing Dance Theater’s Wild Grass at the BAM Harvey Theater presented an evening of 3 movements inspired by the Chinese poet Lu Xun. The first movement, Dead Fire, finds the company in a mountainous landscape with white snowflake-like leaves on covering the floor. A figure in red dances among a group in beige. The second movement, Farewell, Shadows finds a spinning mobile that casts a fantastic moving shadow on the floor while dancers in black trunks and tanks dance in partners and groups below. The third movement, Dance of Extremity reveals a floor of dry yellow grass that rises up to a small hill upon which a rope hangs down from the sky. Dancers in black struggle in unison against a central authoritative figure.
Beijing Dance Theater is a young company (founded in 2008) with a company of talented and able dancers. I particularly enjoyed Gao Jing’s muscular attack, Wu Yan’s theatricality, and the subtleties of the gorgeous Wang Hao’s phrasing. However, a variety of performance styles occurs on the stage. Certain company members maintain a studied distance, while others display a passionate theatricality. In time, I would like to see BDT develop it’s own singular performance quality.
As Artistic Director, Wang Yuanyuan has built a beautiful young company that has exciting potential. I find her work as a choreographer to be skilled in composition and phrasing, but steeped in a tradition of recent contemporary ballet trends that seem familiar to my eye. Ms. Yuanyuan has moments of emotional resonance and surprise, particularly in sections of partnering, and trios. I would like to see her push further into this realm of the unexpected and dramatic. In general, there is a lot of movement going on in a short amount of time. Certain sections, such as 3 women walking slowly on the diagonal from USL to DSR in the Dance of Extremity seemed riveting when presented alongside the flurry of arms and lunges happening onstage.
I admire Ms. Yuanyuan’s penchant for devising a fully realized setting for each dance. Although the intermissions between each movement took some time, I appreciate her desire to fulfill a total vision. The contributions of Jan Jiang’s stage and lighting design added much to each movement. I feel Ms. Yuanyaun’s aesthetic veers toward the theatrical and total, and I would like to see her embrace and amplify this element in her work.