Just before I left Guangzhou, the 广东实验现代舞团 Guangdong Modern Dance Company and Symphony Orchestra were rehearsing in preparation of their first ever performance together. Also present was writer Richard Baimbridge, who was interviewing some of the dancers and choreographers for a long piece on the company which appeared on the weekend in That’s China. Read the whole thing for a good history of the most kick-arse company in China and what they’re doing to contemporary dance.
Sitting in the third row, 33-year-old choreographer Yunna Long is tugging at her already frazzled hair in exasperation. The show – the first inter-arts performance ever for a symphony that’s hosted the likes of Itzhak Perlman and Yo Yo Ma – is an important one, introducing Modern Dance to a new local audience, and testing the limits of dance choreography by using the whole auditorium as a stage designed to bring classical music joltingly to life.
“Sometimes I worry more about a performance like this in our hometown than one in Europe,” says Long. “Foreign audiences are more open-minded. Even if they don’t understand what you’re doing, they’ll still watch. In China, if they don’t like you the first time, they’ll never come again.” Long had less than a week to choreograph the entire score, and the dancers only get two rehearsals. Yet if they share in her apprehension, it doesn’t show.