Chen, Ruohan: “The world dances wildly on the other shore”: Transgressive choreographic practices in contemporary China

Mainstream choreographic practices in China have often been seen and understood as a kind of dance production dominated by the State. This could be further identified by several facts: such dance production usually receives financial support directly from the central or local government; it has to subject to ideological gaze including nationalistic gaze, socialistic gaze, and Chinese capitalistic gaze; the message delivered by the dominant dance performance is generally in line with the political agenda of the State etc. These facts can normally be obtained by watching national dance dramas featured in Chinese styles in theatres or learned through institutionalized dance genres circulated in secondary or tertiary dance institutions in China. Thus, dance productions subject to the normative gaze have also created hegemony and hierarchy between mainstream and minority, individual and collective, professional and amateur. Does the power relation inside the normative gaze create productive or repressive force for dance artists choreographed in China? What reasons might motivate one to choose an alternative path in creating dance different from the mainstream path?

By engaging scholarship and theoretical lens on transgressions and dance narratives of four independent dance artists based in the People’s Republic of China, this presentation attempting to present how might independent dance practices in the context of China’s Reform-era challenge and disrupt the hegemony and dominance of dance norms rooted in State through transgressive acts. Draw on narratives of four independent dance artists, their manifesto, motivations, and transgressions identified in their choreographies will be unpacked and presented. Through seeking diversity and freedom in their choreographic practices, it is perceived that transgression has not only composed their identity as independent choreography in China, but also is critical to their survival under the context of market economy in China.