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December 19, 2014

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Choreographer with an eye for purity

THOUGH dance and music go together like salt and pepper, Hou Ying’s “Tutu” is all about stripping away everything except for body movements.

The modern dance debuting in Shanghai next month has no music and little color as six dancers move spontaneously on stage,

Hou says the performance is about time and space, as well as the perception of the universe, though there is no particular set theme.

Initiated in 2009, Hou’s “Tutu” has been described as “painting color on the barren world.” However, she keeps removing elements to “purify” the piece.

“I don’t want any pictures or colors in the work,” she says. “And I don’t want any music to limit the dance. If there is such limitations, I should break it with my body. It is a very challenging creation, but I was determined to explore body movements in as much simplicity as possible.

“Body language is always the most important element in dance as it reaches and explores both the soul and spirit. The emotion or plot is just subordinate,” she adds.

According to Zheng Jie, one of the dancers in “Tutu,” the performers complete the movements without emotion, leaving each viewer free to make their own interpretations.

There are numerous improvisational parts when the dancers move spontaneously according to Hou’s general requests. And it is often the best moments when the dancers forget about the choreography and dance spontaneously, Hou says.

“They are like six lives shining in their own way with their energy, yet they deliver an integral message,” she says.

Traces of choreographers Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, traditional Chinese energy movements in martial arts and “Book of Change” can all be detected in “Tutu.”

Hou is versed in various dance forms like Chinese, modern, traditional opera and martial arts and joined the Guangdong Experimental Modern Dance Troupe in 1994. Sponsored by the Asian Culture Fund, Hou says she was fortunate to study modern dance in 2001 in New York.

“I tried to get rid of all that I had learned in China. It is not abandoning, but a way to emptying myself to absorb new stuff,” she says.

As rehearsal director of Shen Wei Dance Theater since 2002, Hou has participated in Shen’s “Folding” and “The Rite of Spring,” earning an outstanding dancer award from the New York Times in 2004.

A lower back injury in 2006 made her realize she would not be able to dance on stage forever and steered her to choreography, she says.

Creating the “Painting Scroll” scene for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics was the last time she cooperated with Shen before setting up her own dance troupe in Beijing.

“I might be only one of the blooming flowers in New York, but I’m a crucial seed in the relatively barren land of Chinese modern dance,” says Hou.


Date: January 10, 7:30pm

Venue: Shanghai Art Theater, 466 Jiangning Rd

Tickets: 80-580 yuan


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