Moving to make dance more popular

Ma Yue
Dancer and choreographer Li Xing is having one of his busiest schedules – playing the lead role in eight performances of three productions within 10 days.
Ma Yue

Dancer and choreographer Li Xing is having one of his busiest schedules – playing the lead role in eight performances of three productions within 10 days.

His original dance creation "The Hotel" was staged at the 50th performance at Shanghai Grand Theater during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Before that, Li starred in dance drama "Dragon Boat Racing" at Shanghai International Dance Center. His latest creation "A Dream of Red Mansions" premiered at Jiangsu Center for The Performing Arts this week.

"I just want to seize all opportunities to dance more and create more," the 30-year-old Li told Shanghai Daily. "Dance was not such a popular theater choice back in 2013 or 2014 when I started to perform. But now, more people are willing to go for dance performances, which is a blessing for dancers of my generation."

It's the fourth time "The Hotel" has been performed in Shanghai. Li purposefully arranged the 50th show at Shanghai Grand Theater.

"It's a landmark venue in a city where its audiences are willing to approach new productions and concepts, even if they cannot fully understand them," he said. "Shanghai audiences also show a strong willingness to communicate and give feedback. I welcome all feedback, no matter positive or negative. This is the charm and reality of live theater."

Moving to make dance more popular
Ti Gong

Dancer and choreographer Li Xing

"The Hotel" has been described by Li as a contemporary dance theater production. There are seven characters: a professor, his wife, a lover, a pregnant woman, a drunk man, a hotel manager and a maid.

Unlike traditional dance dramas, "The Hotel" doesn't have a clear story line, though the characters are involved in vague relationships with each other.

As choreographer, Li said the inspiration came from his living status as a dancer.

"We travel between cities and countries for performances, and hotels are more like home for us," said Li. "I still remember that in 2015, I spent only 23 days in my home in Beijing. I had to put clothes that can cover three seasons in my luggage."

"After getting used to traveling, I started to feel that people can also find privacy in hotel... I have encountered various kinds of people in hotels. In the dance, I want to let the characters communicate both as individuals and as a group. Their relationships leave much space for audiences' imaginations," he added.

Li is a Hunan Province native who graduated from the College of Military Culture of the PLA National Defense University in 2010. He stayed in the army's song and dance troupe for a few years before becoming an independent dancer with his own dance studio.

"I learned different dance genres like folk, classic and ballet in college. After becoming an independent dancer, I watched a lot of performances abroad and felt myself more attracted to the contemporary form, and wanted to explore more possibilities in theaters."

Moving to make dance more popular
Ti Gong

A scene from the dance creation "The Hotel"

Li said the stage setting is one of the highlights in "The Hotel." A triangle-shaped wall divides private and public spaces of the hotel, which can be switched by rearranging furniture.

"To explore and play with stage space is what I'm interested in now," said Li. "I have been thinking and hesitating about whether I should build up a style for my creations. Currently, to provide audiences with new content and concepts is what I aim to do. Maybe the exploration of stage space will become a distinguishing feature of my future creations."

Li became better known by the country's dance followers after taking part in the variety show "Dance Smash" last year. In the final competition, he was edged out by his friend Xie Xin, who also appears in "The Hotel."

"The purpose of taking part in the variety show was simple – to let more people know about us, and attract them to theaters to watch dance," said Li. "I celebrated my 30th birthday after completing the recording of 'Dance Smash.' Dancers in their 20s might have superb physical condition and ability, but dancers in their 30s can enrich their characters and perform more steadily on stage."

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