Jin Xing Dance Theater's new work debuts in Shanghai

Ma Yue
The Jin Xing Dance Theater's latest modern dance work, 'Random Goodbyes,' premieres this week, and features dancers from both the Shanghai and Paris branches of the theater.
Ma Yue

The Jin Xing Dance Theater's latest modern dance work, "Random Goodbyes," is premiering in Shanghai this week, involving dancers from the theater's Paris branch for the first time.

Established by China's celebrity dancer Jin Xing in 1999, the company is Chinese mainland's first private modern dance group, known for a repertoire integrating Eastern and Western cultural conflicts, as well as dance adaptations of drama and opera classics.

Shot by Jiang Xiaowei. Edited by Jiang Xiaowei. Subtitles by Ma Yue.

To seek further development on the international stage, the theater established a Paris branch three years ago, gathering some Europe-based independent dancers for its projects and programs. "Random Goodbyes" is the first production presented by both Shanghai-based and Paris-based dancers, with Moya Michael and David Hernandez the choreographers.

South African choreographer Michael is no stranger to Jin Xing Dance Theater, as she worked on "Echo", a female-themed dance for the company, in 2013.

"I really admire her personality and strength as a woman," said Jin. "We Chinese are usually introverted in our emotional expression. But Michael, born and raised in South Africa, broke the routine of women dancers' power use in dance movements. She can drag out the dancers' inner strength and emotions."

Jin Xing Dance Theater's new work debuts in Shanghai
Ti Gong

Moya Michael works with Jin Xing Dance Theater dancers.

Hernandez used to be Michael's teacher, and was invited to join the project.

The creation of "Random Goodbyes" started in 2019, but was interrupted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jin then decided to transform it into an overseas project, and started the Paris branch of her dance company at the same time.

"After marrying my German husband, 40 percent of my life is in Europe and Paris," Jin said. "Given my restless personality, the Jin Xing Dance Theater's Paris branch was set up.

"In February, I brought some Chinese dancers with me to Brussels and Paris for rehearsals, and completed 80 percent of the dance. Then we came back to Shanghai to accomplish the rest. After the Shanghai debut, 'Random Goodbyes' will make its overseas debut in Brussels in February."

Jin Xing Dance Theater's new work debuts in Shanghai
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Dancers rehearse 'Random Goodbyes.'

Jin said "Random Goodbyes" discussed the relations between people and individual self-exploration. However, everyone's emotions, personal status, and attitude towards the world changed after the pandemic, she said.

"This reborn version appears to be richer, involving individuals' relations with others, groups, and society. The fragility and inalienability in relations has been highlighted."

Jin showed full trust in Michael and Hernandez, leaving all the choreography to them, but took over the task of costume design.

"I've been on stage for so long, and I know what kind of costumes make dancers feel comfortable, and what kind of cloth texture looks good under stage light while handling a dancer's sweat."

Jin Xing Dance Theater's new work debuts in Shanghai
Ti Gong

David Hernandez communicates with a dancer.

"Random Goodbyes" will be performed by nine Chinese dancers and five Europe-based dancers who come from France, Italy, Britain, the United States, and Australia.

"When we re-approached the piece, we found that our interest fell on the relationships we had been through during the close-down of the world," Hernandez said. "And when you see the Chinese and overseas dancers come together, make friendships, reach collaborations, and make alliances without speaking the same language, this in a way shows what this dance piece is about – people from different places finding a way to connect."

Hernandez said audiences often found beauty from the unison and collective features in a dance, but that the creators of "Random Goodbyes" were more interested in finding collectivity while everyone maintained their differences.

Jin Xing Dance Theater's new work debuts in Shanghai
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

"Random Goodbyes" is the first production to be presented by both Shanghai-based and Paris-based dancers of the theater.

"When people are not doing the same thing at the same time, they can still fit into each other," Hernandez said. "How to bring individuals into a collective without making the individuals stop being themselves, how to make everybody's personal task into a group task, that's the theme."

In his first time working with the Jin Xing Dance Theater, Hernandez described Jin as an energetic person who made things happen.

"As artists struggle in many occasions in society to be able to exist and have a place to work, here we have someone putting that kind of force behind creating a space where art can be made and artists can flourish. It's a privilege, it's lovely to be part of it."

At 56, Jin rarely appears on stage as a dancer, and has shifted part of her energy to the drama stage. After playing two different roles in her self-directed play "Sunrise," which was adapted from Chinese playwright Cao Yu's 1936 play of the same name, Jin has been working with Lithuanian director Rimas Tuminas on an adaptation of Russian author Anton Chekhov's masterpiece "The Cherry Orchard." The play will debut in Shanghai next summer, with Jin in the lead role.

Jin Xing Dance Theater's new work debuts in Shanghai
Ti Gong

Jin Xing plays the two characters of socialite Chen Bailu and prostitute Cui Xi in her self-directed play 'Sunrise'.

"I still love being on stage, and the performance schedules keep me disciplined," Jin said. "But the dance company will always be a crucial part of my life."

Michael described Jin Xing Dance Theater dancers as dedicated and diligent learners, but expected to see more personalized and confident expressions from them.

"We know that a dancer is expected to execute all the techniques in a very perfect way in terms of movement. But to me, the movements are already there, and I need to see you (the dancer) and what you try to say in the dance. I want the dancers to find the joy and waves of the body instead of thinking too much about the execution of movements and the shape of the body," she said.

"Choreography is only an architecture for something to happen," Hernandez added. "It has created a plan so that things can take place. But if you only concentrate on the plan, nothing takes place. In the end, it's about having something happen between you and the dance."

Jin Xing Dance Theater's new work debuts in Shanghai

Performance info

Dates: November 3 & 4, 7:30pm

Tickets: 180-680 yuan

Venue: Theater YOUNG

Address: 1155 Kongjiang Rd, Yangpu District 杨浦区控江路1155号

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