Tim Darbyshire is a dancer and choreographer from Australia whose works question how abstract ideas can be translated through movement and the body outside of traditional dance vocabulary. While Tim was on an Asialink residency at Rhizome in Lijiang, we filmed a snippet of his work-in progress and interviewed him about the experience:

China Residencies: Tell us about the inspiration behind this piece.
Tim Darbyshire: I’m interested in body as luggage, as an object that doesn’t have it’s own autonomy. Also, I've been exploring martial arts training, kungfu, tai chi, qigong  — obviously China is the birthplace of all these so I’ve been researching them, spending two weeks in the Wudang Mountains, trying to understand why I'm interested in kungfu, choreographically. I think it’s something about the spontaneity and violence in this movement form. Of course, it has its own long history and functionings. I’m interested in how that choreographic source can be integrated into a project like this.

CR: Is there a meaning behind the colours and materials in the piece?
TD: I’m going through this phase where each project is a different colour. For this one, it’s kind of yellow and earthy. I’m interested in what that suggests for the viewer. Initially, I wanted to use dirt, I like this idea of rupturing, dust rising, and things crumbling, something very malleable --but you have to be practical as well, and this paper was the best way to experiment with a destructive quality in the space without actually destroying the space. It works both as a landscape and costume.

I’ve also noticed a lot of pollution here. I knew that before coming, but by travelling on trains and witnessing the pollution throughout much of the landscape, this has really resonated with me. Essentially in this piece, I’m also a piece of garbage -- moving garbage that infiltrates the space.

CR: The paper you’re using also created a soundtrack for the dance.
TD: Yes, in my last project, I was very interested in the sound and the qualities of the movement. I’m always interested in how movement creates a soundtrack, and paper or tape exaggerates the sounds.

This is still a work in profess, with a long way to go.

CR: Why did you choose Lijiang over Beijing or Shanghai?
TD: There’s more time to reflect here, unlike in a larger city. I knew I would have time in the studio to bang my head against the wall, and have time to get to the crux of questions. I wanted to have a simple life and experiment in the studio on a daily basis, and the studio has been fantastic for that.

But part of the residency is also travelling to Beijing and other parts of China to look for something else.

CR: How much did you plan in advance and how much was inspired by your time here?
TD: A lot was planned. I knew it was a circular piece in yellow. The mechanical structure — a lot of it is there, it is a matter of fleshing it out and getting deeper into those choices, going further.

I think I move quite slowly in terms of producing material, there’s really only three movements in there, I’m not trying to rush to form a new move.

CR: How long ago did you apply for this project? And how much did you lay out in your application?
TD: I spelled out three different research angles: martial marts, developing this new project in the studio, and then the environmental and political landscape of China as a specific context.

CR: How much of China do you think ends up in your piece?
TD: It’s not that simple, you can’t just expect to do a residency and gain a deep understanding of a place. I’m still quite new, even though I’ve been here for a bit. But I guess as I accumulate more experiences while travelling around, I do hope they can find their way into the work. Even just recording sound on my phone, different things that come along, like the train journey and different machines, the bus doors, things like that….

CR: What are the next steps for this piece?

TD: Maybe the next step is to experiment with more people penetrating the space -- more bodies -- something larger than myself.

I’ll be doing a workshop in Beijing with 10 or 20 people, experimenting with the creation of mass stampedes. I speak about rupture and turbulence and suddenly the project becomes very dark and depressing, but I’m also interested in finding humour. I’m trying to balance chaotic elements with humour, spontaneity and non sequitur.


This interview was conducted in Lijiang by Crystal Ruth Bell & Kira Simon-Kennedy for China Residencies.