Free on his feet
Updated: 2013-07-17 02:31
Dance week in Beijing
The annual modern dance weeks held in both Guangzhou and Beijing are where Tsao finds his audiences. Beijing Modern Dance Week, which started on July 14, features dancers around the world, who perform and give lectures and workshops over two weeks.
More than 500 students have applied for the dance courses. Last year, all the shows of the modern dance week at the National Center for the Performing Arts were sold out.
Modern dance is enjoying a big boom, Tsao says, because Chinese audiences have started to realize the importance of personal voice.
"Especially since the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Chinese people have become confident and open to different art forms," he says. "When it comes to modern dance, it is not a Western art form. It is a voice of any society when it comes to the modern era."
Popular TV dance shows, such as Let's Shake It and So You Think You Can Dance, also help expose a billion-plus Chinese people to modern dance. However, that's not exactly what the modern dance pioneer anticipated.
"Modern dance and competitions are not compatible," Tsao says. "Imagine: A dancer has to attract all the attention in two minutes, and what the audiences see is just fake emotion and moves catching eye balls."
In Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, Tsao says, the most enjoyable thing is watching his performers dancing. To spend more time with his dancers, he sold his house and car in Beijing and lives in his office at Beijing Dance LDTX.
In the theater of Beijing Dance LDTX recently, he was watching the rehearsal of All River Red, a powerful dance drama adapted from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. It has been staged more than 400 times since its birth in 2002 and will be performed in the coming modern dance week.
One thing Tsao would never do is to make dances "with Chinese characteristics".
"People would ask ‘Why not add some Chinese elements, like the dragon?' I refuse to play that game. Otherwise, we become either a copycat of the West or we become traditionalists," he says. "The essence of modern dance is freedom. When an artist has total freedom to do whatever he wants, this is modern dance."
Dancers of Hong Kong City Contemporary Dance Company stage the dance show Blind Chance in Beijing. Cheung Chi-wai / For China Daily