Czech-Chinese dance work to premiere at Archa

Ordinary People finds similar life stories in dancers from different countries

A new dance piece called Ordinary People will premiere at divadlo Archa on Jan. 22 and 23. The piece is a collaboration between Archa and the Living Dance Studio of Beijing. The main question at hand in the new piece is who are the so-called “ordinary people” in countries where politics takes precedence over human rights.

Two dancers from opposite ends of the globe have a lot in common in their life stories, and some differences. Vladimír, now in his 70s, was a factory worker in Czechoslovakia who used to dance to rock music on weekends, often coming afoul of the police for his love of the capitalist music genre.

Far away in Beijing, dancer and choreographer Wen, now in her 50s, had been preparing to take an important role in a state-run ballet company, but she was part of the pro-democracy movement in 1989 before the Tiananmen Square incident. As a result, her official career was sidelined and she has worked in an underground dance group ever since.

Archa and the Living Dance Studio have collaborated before, but this is the first project the two sides have created together. Ordinary People blends documentary theater, which is based on real characters telling their own stories, and contemporary dance. In the real life stories from both countries Ordinary People finds similarities and differences in the people's experiences.

“The performance is based on the contrast of the personal testimonies of the protagonists with the global questions of today’s world and the West’s ambivalent relationship with China. The life stories full of tragic events as well as hopes and false expectations are presented on stage in metaphorical confrontation. Music, video and light are created on the basis of a live plan; the artists themselves create the structures right in front of the audience. The production features refined projection work, minimalist stage sets and extraordinary and surprising performances,” a press release about the production stated.

The Living Dance Studio was established in 1994 by filmmaker Wu Wenguang and choreographer and dancer Wen Hui, and is the first independent contemporary company in China. Until recently, they worked in the Caochangdi Work Station in Beijing, designed by artist Ai Weiwei.

The studio combines dance, text and film to document social and historical events from China’s past and present. It gets no state funding and the productions cannot be shown publicly in China. The Living Dance Studio is invited to perform in Europe, the US and other countries.

Ordinary People is directed by Wen Hui and Jana Svobodová, and has music by Jan Burian. Aside from Wen Hui and Vladimír Tůma in the lead roles, the cast includes Jiang Fan, Philipp Schenker, Wen Luyuan, Jan Burian, Li Xinmin, Jaroslav Hrdlička and Pavel Kotlík. The performance is English-friendly and will be followed by a discussion. After premiering in Prague the performance will go to Dresden.

For more information visit www.divadloarcha.cz (ENG)

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