Building on last week’s stunning performances, the LDTX dancers presented another six brilliant new works in the second installment of their Spring Equinox programme in Beijing.

Reflection © Yan Danwei
Reflection
© Yan Danwei

The evening opened with an intense piece, Doll by Du Yan-hao. Seemingly naked bodies writhed in neon-lit Perspex boxes; shiny tar-black masks hid the dancers’ faces and disjointed limbs pushed through a screen en masse, lending Doll an edgy, futuristic aesthetic. Du’s choreography for 10 dancers saw them tangled in a heap on the floor, twitching and jerking up and down, one off-kilter movement sparking the next in clockwork fashion. Re-stacking themselves, five bodies disappear beneath the others as they arrange their feet in an unbroken line, each dancer’s feet indistinguishable from the next pair. Springing movement from below the knee, the twenty feet swing through the air, hitting the right-angle like hammers inside a piano and falling back to the floor in unison. The mechanismic quality of movement continues throughout the piece with dancers stepping through a production line manipulated as if undergoing rigorous product testing. Bodies collapse like string puppets as they are lifted from behind, their legs moving like pistons in the air, heads lolloping forward and their elbows rising up and out in suspense.

Continuing along a similar vein, Tang Ting-Ting’s duet, Reflection was fast-paced, punchy and unrelenting. Tang and Du create a dark, shadowy atmosphere in which their intense relationship swings between passion and violence. He pulls her around by her long hair, catching her as she falls backwards into his grasp and never allowing her far from his reach. Yet she seems to revel in this connection, pulling her own hair in his absence. They share a quick angular duet on the floor, echoing one another’s movements while casting misshapen shadows. A large projection in black and white on the back wall further explores the balance of power between the two dancers, her hands becoming his hands on her face, gradually melding with his face and finally zooming in with his lingering defiant gaze.

Liu Yin-Tao’s playful, swinging Fade Away and Jin Xiao-Lin’s sombre Where each contained aesthetically pleasing moments - particularly the unpacking and re-stacking of a set of chair frames like Russian dolls in Where. However, I felt the strongest emotions emerged from the two solo works of the evening.

Adiya’s Everywhere opens as he pats a cloud of white dust from his dirty clothing in a pool of light. Just as the smoky plume settles, he reemerges from the shadows to draw patterns on the dusty floor. Everywhere is extremely touching in its almost Sisyphean spiraling movement, Adiya falling to the dusty floor time and again, often seeming catatonic with despair and unable to rouse himself, only to rise and pat off the dust once more. It is as though the repetitive circular motion leads him away from his sadness and back to it interminably, sobs wracking his body between moments of strength. The piece is beautifully framed by an expanding circle of light that retracts and finally encloses him in darkness.

Similarly shrouded in sadness, Liu Ying’s Untouchable is sensitive and thoroughly human. Liu’s long expressive limbs have a delicacy that enables her to appear almost weightless, yet the emotions she communicates kept her fully grounded in reality. The shiver of her spine as she lies foetal on the floor conveys a deep sadness that is quickly brushed aside by the shake of her head. Her fleeting emotions are almost childlike; she flips onto her stomach, cocks her head and her feet swing up in boredom. Looking ethereal in a floating white dress, Liu’s simple movements somehow get right to the core complexity of being human. Untouchable is a truly beautiful four minutes.

First Ritual © Ke Zhou
First Ritual
© Ke Zhou
After the wide array of new works choreographed by the LDTX dancers, a revival of First Ritual by Li Han-Zhong and Ma Bo seemed a strange choice for the evening’s finale. While the interesting movement vocabulary was handled well by the dancers, the sensitivity of the previous pieces dissipated with the harsh, booming voiceover and elaborate costume design of this larger group piece. Compelling themes surrounding ritual, identity and mob mentality emerge through dynamic visual effects – bowls of clear water turning bright colours; a suspended empty traditional coat swung wildly around – but I couldn’t help thinking that this loud, dramatic work had best stand alone. The purpose of this arrangement, though, is to showcase the work before LDTX take First Ritual to the Macau Arts Festival in May.

Once again, the LDTX dancers stunned and amazed the audience at their studios in Southeast Beijing (yet more of my students among them). Their Spring Equinox programme was packed full of mature, sensitive and interesting works by the dancers-turned-choreographers, whose work I hope will be seen at larger events in future.

***11