The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Zhang Changcheng
Zhang Changcheng
Beijing Modern Dance Company Director
Red and Black
Red and Black
Red and Black (1996)
© Zhang Heping
Flower (2004)
© Zhang Changcheng
an overview
Presenter Interview
What lies ahead for the Beijing Modern Dance Company and its international dance festival in today's Chinese contemporary dance scene? 
The Beijing Modern Dance Company was the first private-sector arts company ever to be granted performing rights in China. Its productions and organization have grown significantly in the ten years since its founding in 1995. The man behind these accomplishments and the company’s active foreign exchange is the director Zhang Changcheng. We interview this young director born in the 1970s and now in his mid 30s who is breathing new life into the Chinese dance scene.
(Interview by Ryoko Kikuchi, representative of R Production and arts program producer

Can you tell us about the organization of the Beijing Modern Dance Company?
We have 28 members. Eighteen of them are dancers. The remaining ten are the production team, including technicians, costume designer, international coordinator, publicity and administrative staff.

What types of people do you have among your company’s dancers?
In age they range from 20 to 32. They are all university graduates with Bachelor degrees in the arts. As a result, the Beijing Dance Academy even blames us for taking all the best people [from them]. At this year’s Taoli Grand Prix, both the Gold Prize and Silver Prize went to dancers of our Beijing Modern Dance Company. Having been educated at the universities, our dancers have a solid base in their art and they are all at the same level in terms of training. However, in general they lack breadth of perspective in the beginning. That is why I try to take them to [international] festivals whenever I can. If they find new types of expression there, then they can bring that into their own work. Since our dancers have a good basic foundation in dance, they are very fast to learn new things, compared to dancers who don’t have such a foundation.
Among our dancers are some who have sought us out and some who we have recruited. In China there are not many chances for dancers to perform, so they are looking for opportunities. But, they don’t want to work in the [commercial] entertainment field, such as dancing at nightclubs. What is hardest for dancers is not making a living but the fact that they don’t have fellow dancers and a good environment to dance in. If they can find a good environment in Beijing Modern Dance Company it is natural that they will want to join us.

About how many performances does your company give a year?
Between 50 and 60 stages. It would be easy to increase the number of performances, but by spending most of the time on developing works, we seek to concentrate on the quality rather than the number of stages we present.

I believe you had an artistic director in the past. Do you have a stage director?
In the past we brought in an artistic director from Hong Kong, but we don’t have one now. In 2005 we had an opportunity to review our operations and we decided that an artistic director was not necessary. Now our dancers create works themselves. They do their own choreography. Titles such as artistic director are nothing more than names people have made up. And, when you start giving people titles it tends to lead to trouble, as they try to exert their powers. The reason I chose the general English title “director” instead of the traditional Chinese title “company chief” is because I wanted to get rid of these types of specialized positions within an organization and the absolute power they involve. The reason I came to Beijing Modern Dance Company in the first place was to reform that kind of monopolization of power and specialization of organizational roles and titles. Beijing Modern Dance Company is now an open organization in which things are decided democratically.

In October, 2006 you held a tenth anniversary production titled “Beijing Vision” at which you performed five our your representative works. They were very different and unique and covered the full accomplishments of the company so well.
The 1996 work Red and Black is one from before the time I became involved in the company and Jin Xing was the artistic director. It is a work that she choreographed and it uses a black and red color scheme and traditional Chinese cultural symbols like the fan and drum. The music is Chinese ethnic music. It was a production that declared the founding of the Beijing Modern Dance Company. The 2004 work Flower is one for which the music was composed by the pioneer of Chinese rock music, Cui Jian. It is a solo for a young male dancer. The choreography was by Gao Yanjinzi (presently an artist with the Beijing Modern Dance Company). The 2004 work Jue / Aware was one invited to the Berlin Arts Festival. It was again choreographed by Gao Yanjinzi and was a mother-daughter production done in collaboration with her mother, who is a dancer. The human body is used in this piece to express complex relationships of the traditional and the contemporary, how they are passed on and developed, how they borrow from each other.
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