In October, we celebrate the shifting culture of China with the latest installment of China Changing Festival. Incorporating some of the most innovative artists currently practicing in China, as well as leading and emerging British-based Chinese artists, the festival showcases the energy and diversity of contemporary China through music, film, comedy, performance and talks.
But if that alone is not enough to hook you in, here are five, more specific, reasons
Discover dynamic dance
From long before the Dragon dances of the Han Dynasty, dance has lived at the heart of Chinese culture, and China Changing Festival gives you the opportunity to enjoy quite disparate modern performances.
Whilst South Korea brought the world contemporary dance Gangnam style, in China they prefer to do things guangchang style. Guangchang wu is square dancing - quite literally dance performed in a public square - of which over 100 million people in China participate every day. It’s particularly popular among retired women, who’ve earned the moniker ‘dancing aunties’.
Less mainstream, but no less impressive, is the double-bill of performances from Julia Cheng and Si Rawlinson. Orlando Warrior is a solo contemporary dance accompanied by live music from Cheng, creative director of House of Absolute, exploring the myth of modern Mu-Lan. This is coupled with Rawlinson’s Ink, which mixes break and contemporary dance to embody the movement and aesthetic of Chinese calligraphy.
Find free family fun
There is plenty at China Changing Festival to keep children happy, with Little Soldier Zhang Ga one such performance, perfect for the family. Told using puppetry and physical theatre, it’s an uplifting tale of one boy’s solidarity and spirit in the face of conflict, from the puppetry director of War Horse China, Liu Xiaoyi. Prefer your inspiring creations in 2D rather than 3D? Li-E Chen: Thinking Posture is an interactive calligraphy workshop which introduces you to four Chinese characters (Sīx, Iǎng, Zī, Tài), and teaches you to speak them in Mandarin Chinese as well as write them.
Hear from inspiring women
The China Changing Festival talks programme brings the stories and experiences of women to the fore. In Hidden Stories leading Chinese writers, Xiaolu Guo and Liliaj Zhang, read from and discuss their most recent books which each shine a light on the experiences of generations of women in modern China. One such experience is the subject of another of our talks Women, China and the two child policy, in which our panel discuss whether the replacement of China’s controversial one-child policy with a two-child per family policy puts pressure on women to have more children.
Be the change
Why stop at absorbing Chinese culture, when you can throw yourself in and get involved. In Li-E Chen’s Proposition for making a silent opera at an invisible museum you can become part of the artist’s process in developing an opera’s aesthetic. If you prefer something a bit more active, then there’s also the opportunity to put the square in square-dancing, and participate in a guangchang wu workshop suitable for all ages.
An abundant array of art-forms
There can be few more contemporary examples of the contemporary application of Chinese aesthetics than the visual installation art of Florence To, whose piece Noqturnl is shown above. The artist’s latest work, the progressive Cyema, is typical of her experimentations with light and sound, with the viewer entering a soundscape where iron gongs ring out, matched to live responsive visuals.
Offering reflection on the shifting role of culture in China is the play SINK, based on the true story of Chinese writer Lao She. A respected author, Lao was given the title of People’s Artist early in his career, but would find himself deemed a public enemy later in his life during the Cultural Revolution. SINK comes to London straight from a successful Edinburgh Fringe run and is not to be missed.
China Changing Festival takes place across Southbank Centre on Saturday 7 October, featuring talks, performances and more.