Chinese dance theatre rewrites history of the Cultural Revolution

July 2009 -

People in China are no longer interested in the past. This is the conclusion to which one is led by Memory, a performance by the Beijing Living Dance Studio. The group combines documentary and dance in a manner that is highly unique for China. "Absolutely," says choreographer Wen Hui. "The people in the film shown in the performance who talk about their past with the Red Brigade - the feared force behind the Cultural Revolution - were not accustomed to speaking in the first person."


Image from Memory by Living Dance Studio (Photo: Ricky Wong)

"To the Chinese, the past is first and foremost a collective issue. That makes the performance an eye-opener for many young people. They often laugh, which is painful to us as performers. After the performance, however, they are often eager to learn more about their history. Their parents, who experienced the Cultural Revolution in person, do not talk about it."

In the video in Memory, a man explains that although it was exciting to be a part of the Red Brigade, looking back he is ashamed, especially because the Cultural Revolution resulted in nothing but misery. Despite these witness accounts - highly rare for China - the performance is also being staged in China. "If we perform it during our own festival and in our own studio, free of charge, we are not disturbed," says Wen Hui.

Living Dance Studio is the only independent dance group in China. "Initiatives from outside the state dance companies are increasing, but they are all in the very earliest stages. That is why we organize our own workshops with young choreographers and also with people who have no dance background. At Living Dance Studio, the process is considered as important as the results. I love untrained bodies. We worked once with people who left their farms in the countryside in search of employment in the city. We put on a performance with them in an old factory - an unforgettable experience."

Living Dance Studio exists since1994 and performs worldwide. In July 2009 it could be seen at the Julidans festival. The company is supported by the DOEN Foundation.