Up Close & Personal
An Interview with Hou Ying
Founder and Artistic Director of Hou Ying Dance Theater
- Tell us a little bit about yourself: What got you interested in dance?
To be honest, I do not know. It started when I was very young. I recalled that my primary school teacher had told my parents that I was really talented in dance and persuaded my parents to send me to a dance school. My mom recalled that she found me dancing all the time no matter where I was or who was around me.
- You have devoted a lot of your time to explore how eastern rhythm can be combined with western dance techniques. Can you share with us your approach?
In my generation, specifically referencing to the 1980s, there was no course in contemporary dance available in schools. In China, we did not have the opportunity to see contemporary dance performances. Our training courses in movement at that time involved Chinese folk dance, Chinese Opera, Chinese Kung Fu and Classical (western style) Ballet. After my four year study at university in the field of dance, I felt stagnant with traditional Chinese dance and was considering ending or at least suspending my dance path.
In 1994, I came across contemporary dance and almost immediately, I started my career path in contemporary dance. Having specialised in contemporary dance for seven years in Guangzhou, I still found that I did not have a clear picture about what exactly contemporary dance was to me personally. I was constantly asking myself, what we are developing and choreographing for? This meant that I constantly casted doubt on my own work.
In an effort to deeply understand contemporary dance, I moved to New York in 2001 to study and worked for eight years. In that time, I developed a substantially better understanding of the art form and grasped the western philosophy and techniques of contemporary dance. What has highly influenced me from the west is their unique ways of body movement, the deconstruction of the body, the abstract language of dance and the critical departure from emotionalism in dance. After continuous exploration and consolidation, I have gradually developed my own independent language in dance.
I returned to China in 2009 and proceeded to study more about Chinese cultures and philosophies. The more I learned, the more I was impressed and intrigued by the profundity and sophistication of Eastern philosophy and how that related to art.
In recent years, I have started incorporating the spirit of Chinese dance as well as the inner power and compulsion from Chinese martial arts and Tai Ji into the development of my works. Therefore, the integration of different elements, including the concept of “Western body movements, Eastern beliefs, Eastern power and Western consciousness”, which I have developed are now embedded and applied to my own works and methodologies.
- Being a pioneer of China’s modern dance company, your works have since been performed in more than ten different countries worldwide. What are some highlights or insights you can share with our readers?
Dance is an art form which has an advanced language; an international language that transcends all language barriers and boundaries. I see dance as the most advanced art form. Through dance, we can unlock their different sensory and sensations, and hopefully audiences can receive the intellectuality and feeling behind the movement, which has the ability to transmit the power of pureness and beauty.
- *KMP Artists will be touring Hou Ying Dance Theatre to the States in 2018. What can we expect in the upcoming tour?
KMP, whose philosophy really captivated my attention, is an agency and tour management company that specialises in producing tours for contemporary dance from Asia Pacific. They have shown genuine interests in HYDT’s works and I believe in them and what they stand for. After our first residency in March this year at New York University, I know they will do excellent work and will support our vision to tour the United States and the rest of the World. KMP is the exclusive booking manager and producer for tours outside of P.R. China. I think the work that will tour North America first will be the piece entitled TuTu and will be combined with residencies and community enrichment programmes at respected educational institutions.
- In your opinion, how have your works touch the lives of people?
A poet from Hai Zi says: “Facing the sea when spring blossoms.” This poem gives me hope and power. My intention is not to present perfection. I only want to convey the different kinds of imperfection; such is the state of life.
For me, contemporary dance is not only a category of dance, it is a mentality. When presenting my work, I hope to transmit and convey the idea of autonomy and independence, an independent thinking about the world and life, independent aesthetics, to empower the audience and let them understand the work through their own eyes.
- Who has had the greatest influence in your life and why?
Ms Meiqi Yang, the pioneer of contemporary dance in China, her great vision has opened the opportunities for future generations to enter into the world of contemporary dance. Until now, she still shows great attention to our path in contemporary dance and encourages us profoundly.
*KMP Artists launched a new multi-lingual website. “Due to growth in business within the Latin and Asian markets KMP Artists has unveiled an all-new website where visitors can access the roster in English, Spanish and Mandarin. We are pleased to serve arts presenters and promoters in different markets around the World.”, says Kristopher McDowell CEO and Founder. KMP serves the industry with offices from the states with headquarters in Austin, Texas and also now from China with a satellite office in Shanghai.