Ying Yun is the celebrated Vancouver choreographer’s first new work since 2017’s Dialogue. A tribute to his mother, the new piece features an all-female troupe of dancers.
When: Feb. 19-23, 7 p.m.
Where: Scotiabank Dance Centre
Tickets: From $29, at wenweidance.ca
Wen Wei Wang’s Ying Yun is the celebrated Vancouver choreographer’s first new work since 2017’s Dialogue. A tribute to his mother, who died four years ago from ovarian cancer, the new piece features an all-female troupe of dancers: Stéphanie Cyr, Eowynn Enquist, Sarah Formosa, Daria Mikhaylyuk, and Eden Solomon.
Postmedia News talked to Wang about Ying Yun, which is part of the Vancouver International Dance Showcase (February 18-21).
Q: This new piece is inspired by your mother. What can you tell us about her?
A: She was a young woman when the Communists took over in China in 1949. Her real name from her parents was Daisy. After she became a school teacher she changed her name to Ying Yun. She was very supportive of me as an artist. I was the youngest, and the only boy. My parents were both school teachers. My father wanted me to become an educator or lawyer or politician, or whatever. I chose to become a dancer. When I was six years old I knew I wanted to dance. My father never saw me dance. He just denied it. So we had a really strained relationship. He passed away two years ago.
But Mom came to Vancouver to see my show. I invited them both and he said, “No, you’re not married, you don’t have family, I’m not coming to see you.” Now I kind of laugh about it. At the time I was sad. I’m sure I hurt him because I didn’t do what he wanted me to do. My mom and I were so close. She gave her life to her family. To lose her was like half the sky falling down. And all the memories came back.
My mom took me to learn how to paint, to play violin. She just wanted us to have our dream, our life. When she was young she wanted to become an actress, to perform onstage in theatre. But her family was poor so she didn’t have the chance.
Q: This is your first piece for an all-female troupe. What was that like?
A: I was nervous. That’s why it took me about four years to get it ready. It’s political, it’s sensitive. As a male choreographer to do something for females, I’m sure people are asking, “Why are you doing this?” But we all have mothers, we all grew up with women. With this piece I was asking myself, What do I really want to do? Of course, right now there’s the #MeToo movement. I see my mother, I see my sister, I see them as human beings, as equal. So that’s the piece.
I’m quite proud. When you see these five women on stage, they are gorgeous, they are strong, they are powerful, they’re sensitive. In the beginning, you feel they are young, towards the end they have grown. It’s like a journey through our lives. It’s about physical movement and energy. I want to show their power.
Q: How did you create Ying Yun? Did you collaborate with the dancers?
A: Like all pieces, I start with pure abstract movement. Our bodies are tuned to speak. It’s like singers; they use their voice. For us, we use our bodies. It’s like a language that we speak. That’s how I start. Then I talk to them, I ask questions: How they grew up, when they physically changed. Or we talk about mothers. But in the beginning, I’m trying to find the pure movement, and how it can communicate. It’s like a colour or sound or flavour. It’s abstract. But we all move. It comes from our breathing. That’s how it starts.
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