Vail Dance Festival: Willy Tsao answers 7
VAIL – The birth of BeijingDance / LDTX in September of 2005 not only caught widespread international attention, but also captured the imagination of many artists in China. The company was born out of a controversial and exciting time of rapid cultural change in China, becoming China’s first professional dance company founded independently from the government. Under the artistic direction of Willy Tsao, China’s foremost figure in modern dance, and deputy artistic director Li Hanshong, the company boasts an ensemble of technically exquisite dancers and a diverse repertoire. Tsao took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.
1. Vail Daily: Explain how you first became involved in the world of dance.
Willy Tsao: I began dancing when I was 18 years old while studying at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington. At the time, I took as many classes as I could and seized every opportunity to see performances. After graduating university, I returned to Hong Kong and, as my family had hoped, I entered Hong Kong University’s MBA program. After I got my MBA degree, I decided that dance was what I needed to do. Hong Kong, at the time, did not have any contemporary dance and I saw a real need for a company making innovative and exciting work, so I founded the City Contemporary Dance Company. That was 31 years ago. At the time, Mainland China was just beginning to open up and we had the opportunity to perform on the mainland. It was clear from that very first performance, China was yearning for dance and art inspired by the individual and so over the past 30 years I have been working throughout China and have been privileged to watch the movement of contemporary dance develop.
2. Vail Daily: When did you start the company BeijingDance / LDTX? Why did you see the need to form a new dance company in China?
WT: BeijingDance / LDTX was founded in 2005 in the wake of a new government mandate that allowed for individuals to run artistic companies. Li Hanzhong, deputy artistic director, and I, took the opportunity to create a new company that was not tied to the government. We wanted a company that felt entirely free to make whatever work we felt compelled to make.
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3. VD: What is the acronym LDTX in your company name an abbreviation for?
WT: LDTX stands for Lei Dong Tian Xia, which translates to thunder rumbling under heaven.
4. VD: What does it mean for your company to be working with the internationally-renowned choreographer Sang Jijia?
WT: Sang Jijia studied dance in Beijing for many years. He is a spectacular dancer and choreographer who spent time in Europe, specifically with William Forsyth, dancing and creating work. His return to the nation’s capital to work with BeijingDance / LDTX represents a homecoming. He is one of the most exciting choreographers working in China today. His method of choreographing incorporates each dancer and their bodies’ abilities and personalities. I believe the creative process with Sang Jijia is very fulfilling for both the dancers and the audience. His choreography is a wonderful contribution to the development of modern dance in China.
5. VD: What should audiences expect when watching the world premiere of Sang Jijia’s “Solitude in Numbers” piece tonight?
WT: Audiences should expect a technically exquisite piece featuring six beautiful dancers and a psychologically intricate work.
6. VD: Tonight will be your company’s Vail debut. What are the dancers saying about performing for the first time at the Vail International Dance Festival?
WT: The dancers are delighted to be in such a beautiful place and performing in such a unique venue. We are thrilled to be performing alongside such wonderful artists and to share with both the Vail audience and our fellow performing artists. It is always exciting for the dancers to bring their work abroad and show the international community what contemporary China has to say.
7. VD: What do you hope audiences take away from your performance?
WT: I hope the audiences will enjoy the dancers, and see a variety of works from different choreographers and different perspectives. China is developing at an incredibly fast pace and no one voice or perspective can capture that experience. I hope that our diverse program of four different pieces will provide some insight into what artists in China have to say.