©Wu Tian Yuan Ballet, 2013
Picture of Dr. Johan Stjernholm performing the choreography Right… Here! in Beijing.
Choreography, performance, and music by Dr. Johan Stjernholm.
Costume design by Flora Zeta Cheong-Leen
©Wu Tian Yuan Ballet, 2013
Pictures of Guest Principal Artist Sisi Qiu from the live performance of Ballet Wu Tian Yuan in Beijing on 16 June 2013. On the top picture, Qiu is supported by dancer Alan Foster.
Choreography: Flora Zeta Cheong-Leen and Dr. Johan Stjernholm.
Costume design: Flora Zeta Cheong-Leen.
The Ballet Wu Tian Yuan is a new dance company under the artistic directorship of Flora Zeta Cheong-Leen and Dr. Johan Stjernholm. The press and premiere performances were held on 30-31 March 2013 in the Music Theatre of Xiao Ke, 798 Art Zone, Beijing, China.
The programme, entitled Coincidences, consisted of new choreographic work by Flora Zeta Cheong-Leen and Dr. Johan Stjernholm. Costume design: Flora Zeta Cheong-Leen.
Company members (clockwise from left on the above photo): Chantal Han, Wendy Chen, Alan Foster, Deirdre Fu, Yuki Zhang, Johan Stjernholm, Flora Zeta Cheong-Leen, and Esther Ho. Summer Hua is also dancing in the company, but not included in the photo.
The short video Interrelations is an edited collection of a series of improvisations made by Katja Vaghi and Dr. Johan Stjernholm, juxtaposed with additional footage by Dr. Nicola Venturi.
The content of the work is perhaps somewhat ambiguous. The work explicitly states that it is about how certain abstract, scientific concepts may be understood in mundane, sensory terms. However, this may or may not be a valid interpretation. The work may equally be seen as addressing the difficulty, or vanity, in trying to to define a unitary starting point for a choreographic process. Or it could be about something entirely different?
The work could just as well have been named ‘Coincidences’, drawing attention to the question of how concepts such as ‘meaning’ or ‘sense’ appear in our world? Does meaning exist as an inherent feature of the universe, or is meaning the product of skilful storytelling, constructed through a selective and partial editing of phenomena according to the principle of causality?
The above question can take additional philosophical pathways: Is that which we call a coincidence governed by fate, or an entirely subjective interpretation of chance-based events? Moreover, what about the structuralist linguistic tradition versus the arguments of the post-structuralists? Is meaning eternally deferred? How relevant are the concepts of ‘differance’ and ‘deconstruction’ in everyday life?
Picture: Dr. Johan Stjernholm at the RAD
The purpose of this blog is to discuss and trace choreographic processes, work practices, and perceptions of dance and movement.
As a reader, please feel free to contribute with comments and to ask questions. I hope that we will be able to engage in a stimulating, creative, and inspiring exchange of thoughts and ideas.
First, I wanted to give you some information about me, Dr. Johan Stjernholm, as the author of this blog. I am a choreographer and dancer, and my primary work locations are in London and Beijing.
In London, I work as a Lecturer in Choreography and Performance at the Royal Academy of Dance. I am also the Artistic Director for a small, experimental, and collaborative dance company called SpaceEngineering. In Beijing, I choreograph for the Tian Yuan Dance Project, which is started by Flora Zeta Cheong-Leen, Founder of CISCA.
In terms of Higher Education, I have a PhD in Dance, with a specialisation on notions of creativity, embodiment, and perception of dance. I also graduated from the Laban dance conservatory in London with an MA in European Dance Theatre Practice, prior to which I completed a BA (Hons.) in Dance Theatre.
My choreographic practice is rooted in two rather disparate traditions: European Dance Theatre and conceptual, postmodern American dance. The influence of European Dance Theatre in my work is not only because of my educational background from Laban, but even more so due to the fact that I for many years have worked closely together with Dr. Valerie Preston-Dunlop, one of the leading authorities on Rudolf Laban’s practices and concepts.
Another major source of influence on my work is the acclaimed, UK based choreographer Rosemary Butcher, who in the early 1970s was part of the Judson Dance Theatre in New York. For years, Rosemary and I have had an on-going and fascinating discussion on notions of creativity and exchange of choreographic ideas. Hence, she has greatly contributed to increase my practical understanding of what often is referred to in critical terms as ‘minimalist’ or conceptual dance.
Lastly, I would like to highlight the important influence that my former PhD supervisor, Professor Helen Thomas, has had on my practice. She assisted me in the development of methods and frameworks that intimately integrate practice and theory. I came to understand that the concept of ‘practice’ can be a form of critical knowledge, or a mode of thinking, just as much as that which we call ‘theory’.