SLATE is the contemporary dance company founded by Anneliese Charek in Shanghai, China. Its members and collaborators appear around the city in site-specific performances, often in unconventional spaces that serve as one-time venues. Recently, Anneliese choreographed a performance entitled “As One” at 1933, a historic slaughterhouse in the Hongkou district in Shanghai.
Neocha: Who did you collaborate with and what was the process in which you worked together?
SLATE: The showing of “As One” at 1933 involved a number of collaborators: the sound artist Pan Daijing, fashion label OBJECT OCCULT, and 12 dancers from the Suzhou Dance Company. I also worked with the ladies from Redscale Studio, Tina Blakeny and Margot Hamer. Over the summer, Tina and I had made a “Dance for Camera” film. That film was then manipulated and used during the performance.
Neocha: How do different venues, architecture or audiences change the performance? What was unique about 1933?
SLATE: Since I’ve been choreographing pieces in Shanghai, most of my work has become site-specific dance. This is due to the fact that Shanghai has virtually no small theaters or performance spaces for this type of work. When creating a piece I always have to keep it in mind that it will be performed in an unconventional performance space, which actually is an interesting challenge. The piece then directly reflects the type of place that we will be performing in. The venue space also changes the performance a lot for the dancers as they have to adjust their movement quality to work in the space.
For the performance at 1933, we really took into account the architecture of the space. Redscale Studio created an installation that took advantage of the curving hallways. Unlike previous performances in other venues, the dancers had a lot more room to move around freely. In general, there were many more interesting opportunities to respond to the space with this performance.
Neocha: What themes did you want to address in this performance?
SLATE: The choreography was based around the theme of the individual versus the mass and conformity. It was inspired by what I observed from the dancers during my time with them. I was surprised to find that they are professionals in a creative field, but are never actually asked to be creative. They aren’t given the opportunity to make their own work or improvise, and mostly just execute steps handed down from a “master”. So I made the piece centered around the concept of the dancers breaking away from conformity. I had each dancer create a solo using movements that they made which we then refined together. It was my hope that this would encourage them to start generating their own work, and then find their individual artistic voices.
Neocha: How does your work tie into the dance community here in China?
SLATE: When I first arrived four years ago, I was really bothered by the fact that a city as big as Shanghai had virtually no small performance groups, performances, or classes to attend. This is something that is pretty easy to find anywhere else in the world, even small cities. There were a few independent local choreographers that showed work sporadically. I started my small dance company SLATE two years ago just because of this. Since nothing else was around, I felt like I had to start something myself.
For myself, I think it is necessary to create work and present it in unconventional spaces for dance. I have most of my performances in art galleries, or as part of outdoor events and fairs, that are normally not a place for performances. Inserting my work into these alternate venues has the added benefit of exposing people who might not normally be interested in contemporary dance to my work, and has opened up opportunities for other kinds of collaborations like what we did at 1933.