Video produced by the Han Nefkens Foundation
Born 1985, China
Works in Beijing and Berlin.
Opus One is a dual-channel video installation which interweaves two seemingly distinct points in time and space in the history of music and movements. One point of departure is Harlem, New York, in the 1930s, when swing dance forms like Lindy Hop and The Charleston became widely popular as people turned to dance after the Great Depression. Another set of protagonists is a young Chinese couple in contemporary Beijing, who trace the steps of the so-called “Authentic Jazz”, choreographing a set of dances while drawing references from vernacular and cheesy dance moves found on popular Chinese digital video streaming platform, TikTok. These parallel narratives perfectly portray the irresistible attraction of synchronization, affinity and convergence of these two temporalities. As Duke Ellington famously sings, “If you should take the ‘A’ train, You’ll find you’ll get to where you’re going in a hurry.” But for some movements, their meaning will have to wait, and won’t be reached in a hurry.
“Suzy and KC are two friends of mine. We dance together. All of us are into vernacular African American dance culture between around 1910s-1950s, a period often associated with authentic jazz dance. I realize they not only developed a very strong emotional attachment to the jazz dance era, but also to the old jazz dancers, who we call the 'old timers'. For some of the old timers, Suzy and KC had brief encounters with - a short exchange of dance in a dance class, or an interaction at a party. For some others, Suzy and KC never had the chance to meet with, since they passed away years ago. However, it seems there are no means to stop Suzy and KC from having a strong relationship with them. Very limited old clips of dances are preserved, some of which might be only 10 seconds long. Suzy and KC watched these clips countless times, and are familiar with all details of movements. In May 2019, they took their first trip to Harlem, New York, where the dance originates from. It's a trip for an important old timer- Norma Miller's funeral. It's also a trip which made them question their relationship with authentic jazz dance as an African American culture. “Maybe, after all, no matter your race, no one can become a black dancer from the 1910s”, KC told me after they returned to China.
To document the changing experiences of people has been an important part of my work in recent years. Living in a country that is rapidly changing, people tend to jump to conclusions in order to understand the things happening around us, and to take actions accordingly. However, I feel like it's always important in this situation to observe and to think. This film would like to offer itself as a fish-tank for future fishermen casting their nets into the past.”