News: ArtsCross London 2013

Thursday 18 July 2013 by Carmel Smith

ArtsCross Beijing 2012. Photo: Wang Ning [detail]

This weekend nine choreographers, 30 dancers and 17 academics from Beijing, Taipei and London are gathering at The Place for the start of a three week cross border creative project. It’s the fourth year of ArtsCross – a major intercultural arts project, which has previously taken place in Beijing and Taipei – and the first time that it has happened in London. This year’s edition is called Leaving home: being elsewhere. Middlesex University’s Professor Christopher Bannerman tells us more…

What’s the idea behind ArtsCross?
The central idea is that the world is becoming increasingly globalised and areas such as Asia are increasing in economic power and influence. In this context, performance is increasingly an exchange between global artists and citizens who may be connected to a specific location and cultural identity, or they may be based in more than one location and have a hybrid cultural identity. ArtsCross asks about how we see this in performance and in the practices of artists.

There have been other cross border projects (Akram Khan working with the National Ballet of China, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui with monks from the Shaolin Temple for example). How does ArtsCross differ?
Of course there have been a number of initiatives and this demonstrates how the world’s changing economic order is changing the cultural landscape as well. Unlike the other projects you mentioned, ArtsCross also involves academics who observe rehearsals and participate in blogs and discussions about the work that they see being made.

Another special feature is the fact that there are nine choreographers from at least three different backgrounds making new work with a group of dancers from Beijing, Taipei and London. Added to this is the single theme that they all address – Leaving home: being elsewhere which invites artists to reflect on their ideas of home and on how they feel when they are ‘elsewhere’. Finally we have a focus on process and the ways that artists make their work.

So bringing artists and academics together make ArtsCross unique. What do the different disciplines bring to each other?
Basically it’s all about different ways of understanding – we can exchange and develop our understanding of dance through using words as well as through the direct experience of performance. Each of these involves a process of generating and assembling ideas and shaping them into a form that can be communicated to others – so artists and academics have some common ground.

It is important that there is mutual respect so that the knowledge of artists as expressed in rehearsal and performance is as valid as the ideas and words of the academics. We are now experiencing the benefits of an increasing number of academics who have had direct personal experience of performance, and dancers who have had a broader education than in the past.

I hope that this enhances the impact of dance and the importance of international exchange and dialogue in the arts, which also helps audiences to better understand the changing world in which we live.

You’ve already had three editions. Has each one been very different?
Yes, each edition has its own unique features which seem to come from the individuals who are involved. The choreographers have been different on each occasion which means that the ideas and movement vocabularies change.

An example of this is the ways that some choreographers from China have explicitly drawn on the vocabularies and aesthetics of Chinese classical dance and other choreographers have opted to create more contemporary work.

Some dancers have participated in two editions and one dancer, Zhao Zhibo from Beijing, has participated in all three – and she is coming to London! Her dancing and her presence on stage have transformed since she joined the first ArtsCross, and this is important as well. Dancers are going to be working in a globalised world, which will involve working in international and intercultural contexts. Hopefully ArtsCross gives them a good experience of this and a network which will assist them in their future careers.

Have finished works emerged?
Finished works have emerged but they are short, almost like haiku, the Japanese form of poetry which is concise but full of resonance. Jonathan Lunn and Carolyn Choa created Beijing Man in 2009 and in the same year a Chinese choreographer Zhao Tiechun created Ghost Money and both works were subsequently performed by the Beijing Dance Academy Company. In other editions the Taiwanese choreographer Bulareyaung Pagarlava has created work which has been performed by Cloud Gate 2.

Who will be involved in London 2013?
Two of the choreographers from the UK are nominated by The Place, Vera Tussing and Riccardo Buscarini. The third UK choreographer, Dam Van Huynh, has been nominated by another partner in ArtsCross, Step Out Arts. From China the choreographers are Zeng Huan Xin, Zhao Liang and Guo Lei. And from Taiwan we have Tung Ifen, Su Weichia and Ho Hsiaomei.

There will be ten dancers from China, ten from Taiwan and eleven from the UK. The dancers from the UK include graduating students from Central School of Ballet, Trinity Laban, London Contemporary Dance School, Northern School of Contemporary Dance and Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance – as well as Middlesex University where I am based.

A key academic partnership is with Martin Welton at Queen Mary and together we have received an award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to form an international network of academics interested in intercultural performance and performance practices. In total there will be 17 academics at ArtsCross London from the UK, China, Taiwan, Japan and the USA.

In addition to partners such as The Place and Step Out Arts, we are working with the Confucius Institute, which is a relatively new agency and is the Chinese equivalent of the British Council.

Will there be any opportunities to see what’s happening?
The best way to participate is through the online forum which will feature video, still photos and blog entries from the artists and academics. There may be one or two open rehearsals – check the website daily! And of course book for the performance at The Place on 10 August and the conference on 11 August.

Apart from ArtsCross events, what other aspects of London life will you be introducing to the participants?
I think just being in London will be an unusual experience for them. Although it is true that Taipei and Beijing are cosmopolitan cities, central London is intensely cosmopolitan and this will be new for many of the dancers. We are also visiting a project run by Kim Brandstrup in the Clore Studio at the Opera House and have some plans for group dinners and theatre visits. But we will be working very intensely – ArtsCross is a kind of catalytic space and some of that dynamic atmosphere comes from the pressure of creating and performing works in a three-week time period. It is intense for all of us, but it is also rich and rewarding.

ArtsCross London 2013 begins on 21 July at The Place, culminating in a performance there on 10 August and a conference at Queen Mary, University of London on 11 August.
further details:

We’ll also be bringing you reports from The Place over the next few weeks here…

Photo: ArtsCross Beijing 2012, by Wang Ning [detail]

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