dance theatre of real people
CURATED BY NIE XIAOYI
The photographs of the real, an artist collective, were born from Wang Mengfan's dance theatre of real people, but the group hope the photographs could travel far. What surprised me is that, these still and moving images have created an entirely different form of documentary photographs or films of dance performances. After their shooting, editing, and soundtrack production, the current works grasps and represents the original atmosphere perhaps even better than the original recording material. This is possibly because the three creators deliberately avoid recording entire performances and prefer to use parts to recreate the soul and atmosphere. Wang Mengfan is the dance director and editor. Da Zhuang and He Shaotong are the photographers. They are the creators and witnesses, accompanying the growth of the play, familiar with the personalities and thoughts of the ordinary people acting on the stage, and know how the bodies of these actors and actresses stretch with music and stop under lights. When the curtains are drawn back, the photographers become hunters, sneaking into the performance with their memories and expectations. And in post-production, Mengfan's selection and rearrangement of the material is more like a second creation.
In 1993, US pioneer dancer Merce Cunningham and his photography partner Elliot Caplan produced a video together, Beach Birds for Camera. By activating the machine, the making of this video is actually a dance between the dancers and the video camera. the real's work takes one step further to escape from the bound of representing the performance and make the video works more independent. Their subtle attention and sophisticated editing shortens and lightens the original recordings. the real's work reminds us – the often- neglected dance theatre is blessed with more possibilities of image production and worth exploring. What's more, the real's work shares a concern with the documentary photography which is towards the everyday life and the expectation of an ideal man. The collective's initial desire for dance theatre of real people was to get ordinary people on stage, and enable them to become real by dancing. We see in their photography how, in loosening the social discipline instilled in their bodies, people slowly took off the bodily constraints and revealed their own beauty and dignity.