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Young Chinese dancer to tour US with piece inspired by daily life

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-01 08:15

Right & Left, choreographed by Gu Jiani, will tour the United States in June. [Photo provided to China Daily]

With a table, two chairs and a white floor, Chinese dancer-choreographer Gu Jiani interprets the context of daily life and explores the delicate nature of human relationships in her piece Right & Left, which was staged at the Inside-Out Theater in Beijing over the weekend.

With this work, she will kick off a tour of the United States from Thursday to June 22, performing at the San Francisco International Arts Festival and the Seattle International Dance Festival, and in Los Angeles and New York.

Right & Left was staged at the University of Michigan and Hong Kong Arts Festival in 2015 and 2016. Gu and contemporary dancer Li Nan paired up for the performances.

Gu will team up with contemporary dancer Wang Xuanqi during the US tour.

Right & Left started from a vague idea Gu got while she was in Hong Kong to display one of her short choreography works, Side By Side, in 2013.

"There are two people-one sitting on the floor and the other swinging upside down," says the 28-year-old.

Her interest in how the environment influences relationships among people inspired the 50-minute Right & Left.

Gu, a former dancer with the Beijing Modern Dance Company, started to choreograph independently in 2013.

"I asked myself: How do I live, how do I deal with others and how do I face myself," says Gu.

"I am not sure how the audience will feel after watching the dance. But more or less, people will see themselves in my work."

The music is a mix of Chopin's Waltz No 10 in B Minor Op 69 No 2, The End by Danish film composer Nikolaj Egelund and daily sounds recorded by Gu, including footsteps and car horns.

Beijing-based projection artist Li Aping manipulates the lighting through the performance. The audience gets a feeling that the stage is cut into pieces and the two dancers move in the shadows.

"Gu is unafraid to break the rules of classical dancing as she and Li (Nan) weave in and out of the light, or continue halfway into the wings as if the dancing extends beyond its visual confines," Huffington Post said about Right & Left when the piece was staged at the Festival Melbourne in Australia in October.

Born and raised in Mianyang, Sichuan province, Gu was trained in classical ballet and Chinese dance from a young age.

She was first introduced to the arts by her parents, who were both employees of a State-owned company and enjoyed music and dance. But she was not content with conventional training and started her own exploration of body movements.

"I am interested in how my body works and what I can do with it," says Gu.

Gu became a professional dancer after graduation from the Sichuan Conservatory of Music.

After working for the dance company in Beijing for four years, she moved to the US as a visiting artist for six months. There, she had the time to think and find her own dance vocabulary.

"Everything went smoothly for me but I wanted to break out and figure out what I wanted to do," says Gu, who set up the N Space Body Project along with Li Nan to collaborate with young artists.

Last year, the Shanghai International Arts Festival commissioned Gu's work, Exit, which premiered in October. Exit is inspired by the principle of action and reaction and explores human desire and how people seek paths to liberty and self-fulfillment.

Gu has a studio in the outskirts of Beijing, where she practices dancing along with other young artists.

"We do rehearsals for hours every day, and lots of ideas come out of them. The process is very exciting," she says.

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