Life cannot be analyzed. When life is dissected, it loses its beauty and aesthetics. And what is faith? Because we revere life, we are deeply grateful of it, this is faith – the feelings and emotions a lot of people experience after seeing nature through Gao Yanjinzi’s eyes. In ancient China, the mediums, sometimes called witches, who helped in communication between heaven and earth, people and spirits, were considered to be of the highest intelligence; people often think of Gao Yanjinzi as a “witch”, and the identity of being a woman, a wife and a mother creates for her a truly fulfilling life. Mysterious, warm, enchanting, joyful, brave and wise… each performance is like a dream; it is the enjoyment of beauty and the joy of thinking, showing people a glimpse of the deep waters in Oriental culture.
Oath – Midnight Rain is an unforgettable scenery. Oath – Midnight Rain explores the choreographer’s understanding of Buddhist Samsara; the cycle of death and rebirth, the luminal moment between night and day, between black and white, between ending and beginning. The 24 solar terms is the great wisdom of the ancients, describing the rhythm of the universe and the rhythm of life; heaven and earth, man and God, fox spirits and snake demons, birds and flowers and insects, birth and transformation, magic and the magnificent sights, sadness, joy and true emotion. Beijing Modern Dance Company’s Blooming of the Time tells the world’s vastness and tolerance, spirituality and human passion. The 12 Zodiacs held great appeal for people in the past. If Blooming of the Time is a picturesque charm between human and nature, then Zodiac is a fun and interesting spark between humans. This is a warrior’s fight – a struggle against one’s temperament and feelings, a struggle against emotions; the zodiacs, life cycle, emotion and temptation together complete and fulfill one’s flesh and blood in this path of life.
How has Beijing Modern Dance Company developed since its conception in 1995? What were the greatest difficulties you encountered?
To tell you the truth, I am a person who does not anticipate for things; today’s Beijing Modern Dance Company is not by my design, but I have always been very conscious of our state of mind, and whether we are dancing from the heart. Over the years, the changes in the team, venues and funds are inevitable. Again and again, the question rises: do we “survive” by satisfying external demands, or “live” with creative freedom, with art? Starting from being a dancer, becoming choreographer, to art director, I have never left. I am confident and convinced that fate has given me the best, and there must be a meaning, value and mission in it. Different art directors and creations may bring about various styles, but I have not changed, and my faith in the relationship between dancing and life has not changed. In the past 22 years, tremendous changes have taken place in China, and the works of the Beijing Modern Dance Company are also changing, but the spirit of the dance has stayed the same; as long as there is one person who is devoted to it purely and persistently, it will stay.
Material difficulties have always existed, but the greatest difficulty is the test of human spirit. In reality, the temptation of fame and fortune continues unabated, and how long will dancers’ faith in art last? In this fast-paced society, talking about faith and perseverance may make some people laugh. Overnight fame and wealth come with restlessness; life and emotions become more and more distant while people become obsessed with obsolescence. A dance team has to be famous to be able to build their own theater, to create their own brand… this is one kind of goals, but my goal is: we exist because we are close to our hearts, and create from within our hearts; in this way, it makes sense to the present audience. In other words, to become the artist of this era is our mission.
What is the “modern” spirit of modern dance?
Modern dance respects and appreciates differences, otherwise it cannot be associated with the word “freedom”. It appreciates and encourages every life to bloom into its own characteristics, which can maximize the value of life with its own thinking, understanding and imagination. Modern dance is a form of contemporary art, but if my work has only one explanation, then it is likely to be classified as traditional dance. Yet it lets everyone have a room for one’s own imagination and explanation; that is contemporary work of art. The expressions and thoughts from the author’s devotion are like seeds and the audience is the soil. Each seed grows to become different plants on different land. Some people think that the freedom of contemporary art lets you do anything, but that “can do” attitude and actually doing quality work are not the same, since the abstraction of the latter is rooted, with origins. From this point of view, it is the same as the highest state of China’s aesthetics and Taoist philosophy, that is, leaving an empty space for your imagination. What is “yuzhou” (the universe)? “Yu” means all directions, while “zhou” refers to the past, present and future; one is space, the other time. In a place of great possibilities, you find the seed of emotions and thoughts that you want to express, and bring to the audience infinite imagination.
“The theater has spirit”; how do you feel about Temple Theatre Beijing Opera House?
I really like Temple Theatre Beijing Opera House. It is not only tranquil, but also features more than 300 years of ancient and modern history; originally, it was a temple. Not, that I am very religious, but I do care that it is a religious place. Each time the dancers perform here, they will showcase the sanctity of the dance while the audience experience a sense of piety. I think the Temple Theatre Beijing Opera House is suitable for pure art; and art itself and the temple are in line with each other. Beijing houses many theaters, but Beijing Modern Dance Company and Temple Theatre Beijing Opera House have reached a strategic cooperation, together pursuing the same goal.
Is there a stage you have been hoping to perform on?
No. If right here and now you want to see me dance, and I want to dance for you, then this is the best stage. Rare is the place that makes you happy, giving you “the joy of your heart”; does it matter where? If I go to a remote village in Guizhou scattered with cattle dung, where the elders and children gather around, some smoking cigarettes, some picking their noses, and just by shoveling away the dung, I can dance on that space, and see them watching with great delight, I will be moved to tears. Any place where you can dance with your heart is the best place in the universe.
What do you enjoy in your spare time?
I enjoy reading books, and sometimes write things along the way. At times, when I’m full of emotions, strangely I do not want to dance, but will write, instead; since I am not good at writing, absolutely without a trace of trained skill, it becomes much simpler; but with dancing, I have been dancing since my early childhood, and regardless of how I dance, I cannot hide my strict professionalism.