Ying Yun(英云) is a contemporary ballet piece performed by five incredibly technical, flexible and dynamic female dancers. The work is named after and dedicated to choreographer Wen Wei Wang’s mother, who was influential in his pursuit of art and dance, and passed away from ovarian cancer in 2014. This story of support and struggle does not necessarily come through in the highly physical dancing seen in the piece. What does shine through is the power, grace, and control of the interpreters.
The Dance Centre’s stage seems vast with pinned wings, white marley floors and blank backdrop. The space is slowly animated when the cast enters and a ticking sound, like a countdown, fills the room. Facing away from the audience, the dancers appear as futuristic characters—Power Rangers, even—standing at attention in their outfits of structural white fabric. They are like gladiators in paper cut-out costumes; strong and soft at the same time. The dancing that ensues is in crisp unison. When in silence, we hear the dancers counting and giving breath cues to enable their coming together over and over again. Although the dancers are exacting in their movements, their personalities inevitably leak through. An arm may be lifted with palm held upwards instead of down, a wrist may be slightly crooked, or an eyeline slightly raised, allowing the audience to sense the individuality of the interpreters.
This piece thrives on pure movement. Lacking a narrative, the audience follows along by ogling the extremely high leg extensions and low lunges. It’s impossible to ignore the athleticism and prowess in the dancer’s bodies, especially as they shed layers of their costumes with every exit and entrance. These dancers are in their prime, and their physical capabilities are on full display. At times, a soloist will bend and rotate a limb to hyperextended angles, as if discovering just how mobile they really are.
Sound and video are used to create textures that blanket the otherwise sterile space. Backdrops of fuzzy static and a colourful circle resembling a Petri dish are juxtaposed with travelling horizontal lines. The sound score has hints of ocean waves and deeply cavernous noise. At times, snippets of voice are layered to create a chaotic and overwhelming environment. A standout moment in the piece was when soft, feminine vocals infiltrated the otherwise obscure soundscape. The tone of voice was like a memory. This tender moment was encapsulated by a short solo in which dreamy Mikhaylyuk, like a languid butterfly, fluttered her hands and drifted upstage.
Specific memorable moments such as this were rare, as the whole piece was filled with such high energy and large movement. After an hour of similar frequency and style, the well-executed solos and duets began to feel repetitive. The abstract movement was impressive, yet the piece felt slightly too long to sustain this as the main focus.
Overall, Ying Yun(英云) is a highly physical piece danced to perfection by the young performers. It is abstract and vague in narrative thread, but strong in physical interpretation. This show is for an audience that craves the beautifully technical dancing that these powerful women are capable of.
Ying Yun (英云) runs through February 23rd at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. Tickets and info at wenweidance.ca.