Phenomenology is the new black

Time to face the music!

image of sign to Beijing Dance LDTX Beijing

At last the sign that will take me to LDTX!!


Days 8/9/10

Tuesday afternoon I got the phone call from the Director of The Redgate Gallery, Beijing Dance LDTX were ready to have me pop by and take some arty shots of their fabulous dance troupe!  At last! Joy! Horror! Panic! Time to see what the new Nikon and me at the controls will achieve.  Settle! It will of course be another ‘hide and seek’ to find this illusive company and its headquarters in Chaoyang District. Subway – tick  – all that went well – directions? Confused? My thanks to an elegant lady Beijingren (local Beijing peeps) who came to my aid and insisted I took a taxi to Xidawang Rd.  Eventually, a taxi was hailed and I bundled myself and my equipment into his ice cool cab and spat out some odd chinese in the hope he would take pity on me trying to explain just what or where it was I needed to go. All the while he was conducting a jovial conversation via earphones to some amiable listener – much laughter and smiling – at me? at the conversation? I couldn’t be bothered to be paranoid on account of ongoing fatique – amazingly he eventually found the building and we were both delighted – me because I could escape and he because he was ridding his cab of a furen (foo-ren – madam) no I didn’t mean Fuhrer!!

So it begins!

image of LDTX

Outside Beijing Dance LDTX Beijing

Beijing Dance / LTDX

Lei Dong Tian Xia – Thunder Rumbles Under Heaven

There is nothing more wonderful for an old dancer than to watch the 10am company ballet class – memories flood back of Covent Garden Studio, Barons Court, London, where ‘us’ exhausted Royal Ballet TTC’s (teacher training course girlies) endured our daily barre and centre practice class – ours was not joyous – but the familiarity of piano accompaniment and the same exercises performed no matter where you are or what tongue you speak, the language of ballet is universal – imagine if you can, the conjoining of French and Chinese tongue and it takes on a whole new quality – sublime!!  I had to pinch myself several times, for being in the studio, drifting back into nostalgic memories and the bubbling excitement of having these beautiful dancers to photograph. They have invited me to photograph for 3 days – OK that’s it – I’m gone! I had only anticipated the one day but was hardly going to complain – so shoot some material will you!!

10- 11am Ballet class     12-1pm rehearsels   2-4pm rehearsels      Joy!     The space is so like the old studio theatre at The London School of Contemporary Dance – my, how has time flown past – Advanced standard barre, flowing movements, battement cloche to make your eyes water, pirouettes and extensions and ecartes that would blow you away! There was a proliference of beautiful arched insteps – pointed toes pas excellence and the elegant Madame was regal in her chitter- chatter of enchainments exquisitely demonstrated. Not an ounce or milligram of fat to be seen in the room – all the boys slender with six packs and the girls just teeny tiny – 2 dancers really stood out, one hails from Tibet and the other Mongolia. The luxury of watching dancers go through the motions of rehearsing, the constant repetition of moves, lifts, jumps – again and again  – priceless. The thing that struck me the most was their untapped joy – never once did they look glum or disenchanted they just came up with the goods, constantly – I had great opportunity to experiment with the slow shutter speed shots (shots channelling Francis Bacon)plus  the ongoing choreography providing sumptuous images of colour spinning – like a madman with turrettes. My facial expressions and retorts of wow! made it obvious I was in seventh heaven.

image of Beijing Dance

Beijing Dance LDTX


image of Beijing Dance

Beijing Dance rehearsing

These are snaps from my iPhone the proper ones are still in the camera!!   All 1,000!!

You can’t see the good stuff yet! Suffice to say 3 days of photographing morning class and rehearsels was the most incredible experience – the only annoyance is the digital factor, good old film SLRs would have handled the fast moving shots so much better but hey! being a dancer myself I was more annoyed with myself not always capturing the right angle of the movement which is so important – believe you me the photo opps were unreal!  This opportunity from LDTX is fantastic and makes me very hungry for more chances to photograph my first great love.  The other interesting factor is that ‘we’ of the western world are very inquisitive as to who or which technique has been instrumental in’ their’ form of contemporary dance – indeed July’s international dance festival here in Beijing had plenty of dance academics wondering – I feel that they have their own specific style which does not have to adhere to the Graham, Limon or Cunningham techniques –  they are doing their own thing and it works. Having watched Sang Jijia, dancer & choreographer (previously with William Forsythe Company as dancer & choreographer) rehearse his dancers with care, vigilance and more joy  – that his work was truly inspiring and deeply eastern with an edge – beautiful movements on bodies so lithe, slender and flexible – incredible!

The sweetest time was in between rehearsels at lunchtime when a handful of dancers lay on the floor and slept till it was time to resume at 2pm. You could hear a pin drop as they slumbered away their exhaustion ready to jump up at a moments notice.

Thank you to Redgate Gallery and Beijing Dance LDTX for a remarkable opportunity!

LDTX were guests at the 2011 Brisbane Festival and will be on tour to Germany & Poland for Autumn 2012.


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  1. Posted August 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Well done Sonia, glad that you finally got to take some dancerish pix – what an amazing experience!! Finding one’s way around in Beijing clearly isn’t something for the fainthearted, so I’ll stay here and watch from the sidelines. Gold medal to you, I say.

  2. Warren Maynard
    Posted August 17, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    it must have been great as you say, to watch the rehearsals. i am looking forward to seeing your photos. I can see what you mean. The dancers look great sleek and well honed tools for the dance. i understand, just a bit, how hard it must have been to watch and no drift back into the dance studio that still lives on a thousands miles and days of time away in London. The dancers look very powerful.

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