生长 Genesis was the brainchild of an East meets West collaboration between Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, a Belgian-born dancer and choreographer, and Yabin Wang, a Beijing-based dancer and choreographer, who performs with her own company, Yabin & Friends. Despite the awe-inspiring explanation of the themes of opposition – ying/yang, life/death and rebirth, science/the human condition, cultural conditioning/freedom – the evening can best be described as a series of dances around the theme of life. The dances became more absorbing as the evening progressed, as the choreographic compositions became more intense and varied. As is said in an intertwining dance composition on DNA, life renews itself and may take itself beyond the human experiment.

© Koen Broos
© Koen Broos

The music was central to the dance, but it was dispersed between countries and instruments. My expectation is that music develops around an idea; it has one composer, and it forms a unified whole. This was not the case and not the philosophy. In the performance, Japanese was spoken and at the end, a Tibetan song hauntingly broke the silence. The ordering of the different musicians was important to allow contrast and rhythmic change. Olga Wojciechowska was the main composer, with additional scores from Barbara Drazkowska on the piano, a mridanga player (an Indian drum that accompanies devotional music) Manjunath Chandramouli and a vocalist from the Congo, Kaspy Kusosa Kuyyubuka. The musicians were fully fledged artists, and a powerful force infusing the dancers.

I would call Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui a kinesthetic rather than a visual dancer. He is sensitive to rhythm and musical colouring. Yet one of his great strengths is his ability to create moving, visual compositions using several dancers. The sculptural shapes formed by his choreography are in perpetual motion with changing foci – at one point, there was a dance of hands. His style is fluid, his movements connected and pulled down by gravity. Here, there also were upward thrusts and oriental touches. Early in the performance, there was a humourous sequence with a 'cadaver' on a table, and as the doctor examined the corpse, the corpse began to mirror the doctor's mannerisms.

The company included dancers from China as well as dancers from Cherkaoui's company, Eastman (based in Antwerp). The two female dancers, Yabin Wang and Wang Qing were beautiful, their slight bodies and delicate arms and hands adding to their sensitive performances. They had a talent for dramatic portrayal: a tilt of the head or a flourish of fingers, drawn perhaps from a study of Eastern classical dance. Yabin Wang danced a magnificent solo as a dark force.

There was a magical moment when crystal balls appeared to levitate among dancers dressed in black, like puppeteers on a darkened stage. The balls began to interact like atoms, and the visual effect was accompanied by silence.

© Koen Broos
© Koen Broos
In my favourite moment towards the end, the two female dancers enclosed in glass cases met. Their encounter draws heavily upon Chinese or Japanese classical dance. In an extension of female generativity and mutability, Yabin's arms began to grow until they almost extended into rivers dropping from her shoulders. The ending moves towards a mystical leap into the imagination. Water is the origin of life, and this imagery seemed all the more poignant on a day when the discovery of water on Mars dominated the news.