Boundary-breaking dance chiming for change

Presented by Wayward Theatre and produced by Step Out Arts, emerging choreographer Si Rawlinson’s Red Ink is a bold, striking dance piece depicting the dissident artists’ struggle between the desires of state and citizen in China. 

Featuring dancers Vladimir Gruev, Helder Delgado and Rawlinson himself, the piece uses the dancing, human body as a vital instrument against the unwarranted surveillance, scrutiny and perversity inherent in the censorship in China.

Closing this year’s China Changing Festival at London’s Southbank Centre, Red Ink draws attention to the current Chinese political climate, whilst expressing important connections with the past. Sound is layered with hip-hop samples, ear-rending noises and recordings of traditional Erhu and Pipa. Red skirts inspired by tribal traditions are juxtaposed against commercial office wear; emblems of the past paralleled with the present monotony of the Chinese political establishment. 

The choreography is a fusion of break, contemporary, hip-hop and krump, where this restless combination indicates Rawlinson creates choreography which defies categorisation and control – a strong parallel with the artist’s own rejection of the unruly censorship. 

Along with these strong contrasts between past and present, the use of hair is a crucial symbol of creativity and individuality. As Delgado and Gruev manipulate and control Rawlinson’s body, his hair is completely free. The hair is a powerful writing brush, articulating freedom, resistance and creativity. It will not be controlled or entrapped by any entity. 

A striking dance piece, Red Ink tells a vivid story about the Chinese political climate and the perpetual struggle artists experience living in a censorship state. Choreography such as Red Ink, however, challenges this very notion, stimulating ‘a more distinctive kind of exchange [which] will, in turn, lead to more distinctive ways of exchanging views.’

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