Beijing Dance Theater Dances About Poetry


Beijing Dance Theater (北京当代芭蕾舞团 / 北京當代芭蕾舞團), known for its combination of ballet and contemporary dance, brings its production Wild Grass (野草) to BAM’s Next Wave Festival for four performances from October 15 – 18.  Based on a collection of prose poetry of the same name written in the 1920s by Lu Xun (鲁迅 / 魯迅), one of China’s greatest literary figures, during a period of disarray and stalled hopes for the Republic of China, the production translates written abstract metaphors representing the bewilderment, dissonance, search, and resilience of those uncertain times into human movement.

Sharing Lu Xun’s social concern and finding parallels to the present day, choreographer Wang Yuanyuan (王媛媛) says, “Each of his poems were very strong and conveyed a very strong sentiment about how we live and survive in society…We’re all just like grass searching for our own way to survive wherever we live.  Each blade of grass has its own vitality and dignity.  We want to show how that dignity helps us survive on earth.”  Incorporating text and elements from different poems including  “Dead Fire” (死火), “Farewell, Shadows” (影的告别), “Revenge” (复仇 / 復仇)“Snow” (雪), and “Blighted Leaves” (腊叶), producer and set designer Han Jiang (韩江 / 韓江) and Wang’s interpretation of Lu Xun is accompanied by classically-styled music by Academy Award-winning composer Su Cong (苏聪 / 蘇聰), Wang Peng, and also experimental electronica by Biosphere and Kangding Ray.


Creative Asia richly describes the three movements:

Wild Grass opens with the scene Dead Fire – an imaginary cold world with a melting iceberg, a yellow moon.  The dancers are dressed in flame red, ice white and burnt black, and the floor is scattered with white, dry leaves. There was soft power under the elegant beauty of the scene. The piece was accompanied by live piano…

The second dance scene, Farewell, Shadows, is painted black. Blending techno grooves with dark textures, the music was on the edge of electronic and experimental music. The dancers performed as couples. The female dancers acted as puppets or robots, controlled by male dancers before their bodies were set free. The conjunction and transition of power between two dancers was smooth and sensual. The female dancers’ feet tapped the floor in a style reminiscent of the ballet move frappé, seamlessly matching the beats of the music.

Dance of Extremity, the last scene, accompanied by a duo of violin and cello, was the closest adaptation of Lu Xun’s Wild Grass. All dancers were in black, and were dragged onstage by other dancers. “It reflects how (the environment) stops you thinking, stops you talking, stops your language, and people’s power of speech is limited, your silence is exploded in death,” said Wang. “It is the heaviest one among the others.”

NewsChina talks about the development and production of Wild Grass.

Program notes with excerpts from the poems that serve to accompany each movement have been provided online by BAM and also in Chinese on Sina.

You can read more about Lu Xun’s work in this academic article by Dr. Jon Eugene von Kowallis of the University of New South Wales.

BAM has generously provided for our readers two tickets to the performance on either Thursday, October 16 or Friday, October 17.  If you would like the tickets, please email with the subject line “Wild Grass Tickets” and the date you would like to attend before 2 PM on Thursday.  We will randomly select a winner from the entries.  [Update: Please include in your email 1)  how you heard about us and 2) whether you’ve attended any events or exhibitions after reading about it on our site.]

Beijing Dance Theater presents Wild Grass
October 15 – 18, 7:30 PM
BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton St, Brooklyn
Tickets: $20 – $50

Photos by Han Jiang.  Courtesy of BAM