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Willy Tsao
Invitation to the Dance - Reflections
Performance Reviews
Kaye Playhouse

Notes on the 365 Ways of Doing and Undoing Orientalism - reflections by the chorographer

by Willy Tsao
October 6, 2005
Kaye Playhouse
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
(212) 772-4448

Notes on the 365 Ways of Doing and Undoing Orientalism - reflections by the chorographer

Willy Tsao
September 6, 2005

In creating 365 Ways of Doing and Undoing Orientalism, I re-live my bitter-sweet experience as a choreographer in Hong Kong and China in the past two and half decades.

There seems to be a Western perception on the Eastern Dance —- a stereotype of what an "Eastern Dance" or "Eastern Dancer" should look like on stage, even when it comes to modern dance on a modern stage. The misconception that the Western world is ultra modern and the Eastern world is traditionally bound takes a strong hold not only in the mind of most of the western critiques and audience alike, but also in the mind of the government officials whom I dealt with. Whereas a "Western Modern Dancer" is free to do whatever the imagination leads, a modern dancer from the East is better to make sure that the work carries the "Cultural References", lest this particular dance be blamed for either imitating the West, or forgetting the root.

Interesting enough, the feeling is also shared by the co-choreographers, Mr. Xing Liang from Beijing and Tibetan choreographer Mr. Sang Jijia. We decided to put aside our prejudice against Chinese cliché and to stuff the stage with all these cliché like a jigsaw.

The work is divided into three parts:

The first part muses on the Eastern perception of the Four Elements of the universe, namely: Earth, Water, Fire and Wind. On one hand, the minimalist design enhances an empty space poignant of meanings, like a Zen garden. On the other hand, the meditative movement of the oriental dancers is disturbed occasionally by the Western Modern Dance.

The second part takes a look at the "Chinese" objects. This part of dance is constructed according to the four seasons cycle of Nature: "Autumn" deals with apparatus in the Chinese opera, which is commonly considered the most sophisticated form of performing arts in China; "Spring" deals with objects in the folkloric dance, which always suggest festive mood and colors; "Summer" is filled with the progressive tableaux of the revolutionary ballet; "Winter" juxtaposes the modern Chinese dancers against the "Chinese" props.

The third part attempts to approach the Eastern philosophy that is not meant to be understood, especially when the modern stage may not be compatible to concepts like Nothingness, "Wuwei" (to let things take their own course) and "Tianrenheyi" (the unification of nature and man). An intelligent way to appreciate the work then, is, try not to understand it, but to wait for the Enlightenment.

365 Ways of Doing and Undoing Orientalism will be performed from October 13 to 15 at 8pm. Tickets are on sale at Hunter College's Kaye Playhouse Box Office (68 St. between Park & Lex. Aves) starting August 15. Call the Kaye Box Office at 212.772.4448 for phone sales or purchase tickets online at kayeplayhouse.hunter.cuny.edu. Ticket prices: $10, $25, $35.

For further information on CCDC, please visit www.ccdc.com.hk.

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