Shanghai Beauty | Jin Xing Dance TheatrePhotos - David Wyatt

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The mythology that surrounds an artist has the potential to infiltrate or even eclipse the work that they produce. The circumstances within which the work was created can become more appreciated and well known than the actual artistic content.

Chinese choreographer Jin Xing is one such artist. With a personal history that reads like a Hollywood movie, Jin Xing was born in China a male. He joined The People’s Liberation Army when he was nine, to travel and study dance and whilst serving, Xing studied under famous choreographers such as Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham. Xing left the army at the age of 26, having earned the rank of colonel and subsequently underwent gender reassignment surgery to become female. She then founded Jin Xing Dance Theatre in 1999.

Jin Xing Dance Theatre is a completely independent performance company. It receives no government funding and as a result, operates without the stifling creative restrictions imposed by the Chinese parliament. Their latest production Shanghai Beauty was presented at the Arts Centre as the premiere piece in the Kenneth Myer Asian Theatre Series. Though unfortunately, the work was only interesting because of the personal history of the artistic director - not for it's choreographic content.

Shanghai Beauty explored the themes of conformity and rebellion and how culture shapes notions of beauty. However, these points were only examined superficially through the use of traditional costume and sound. The choreography was under-developed and repetitive, becoming quickly predictable and several sections could have been edited.

The dancers were technically accomplished, although movements seemed unfinished and rushed at times. More attention could be paid to unison as it serves the artistic rationale of the piece and the gestural sections needed to be clearer. That said, the ensemble pieces were the strongest part of Shanghai Beauty, demonstrating the skill of the dancers with their extended lines and lilting grace.

Shanghai Beauty represents cultural difference in other ways too. Whilst the work may be highly unconventional in China, it is not by international dance theatre standards. With such a rich and fascinating personal history to draw from, one couldn’t help but be disappointed by Shanghai Beauty’s innate ordinariness.


Jin Xing Dance Theatre
Shanghai Beauty

Venue: the Arts Centre, State Theatre
Dates: 4 – 7 March 2010
Tickets: $39 - $89
Bookings: www.theartscentre.com.au, 1300 182 183* or the Arts Centre Box Office | *transaction fee applies