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Alternative celebration for Women's Day
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-16 08:40

Modern-dancer Wang Yanan had not really celebrated Women's Day in the past, but this year she chose to celebrate it through the medium of her art.

Lead singer of the band Ziyo, Feng Haining wowing the audience with her singing. [China Daily]
She and American dancer Alison Friedman performed at a party entitled "Themselves - Every Woman Is a Beautiful Soul" at the Yugong Yishan Club of Beijing.

The party, subtitled "An Alternative Celebration for International Women's Day," presented works by women artists from the fields of dance, music, poetry and film.

"In past years March 8 held no particular significance for me," said Wang after her performance. "But this year will be unforgettable, for we did a very meaningful performance."

Wang and Friedman's performance was indeed very special. To deliberately restrict their scope for movement they danced on the club bar. This meant they could not stand up straight, because the space between the bar and the ceiling was too low.

While the limitation may suggest the general pressure women feel in society, and the two dancers' competition for space to move in, for many, symbolized the relationship among women in contemporary society.

"We created this work especially for this space," said Wang. "You could say there is, or there is not, a meaning in it."

Friedman, from Washington DC, is currently working as a broadcaster at China Radio International. She said she was thrilled to have had the chance to depict women through dance to mark Women's Day.

"We put in what we feel as women in this dance work," she said.

Younger women artists also presented their way of looking at themselves and the world, among them was the 1980s-born writer Chun Shu, who came to fame with her controversial novel "Beijing Doll."

"Women's Day should be a happy day for every woman," said Chun. "I love being able to contribute to the festivity. And although I can't sing or dance, I can recite my poems."

One of them reflects many of her generation's opinion about man-woman relationships: "When I go somewhere/or play somewhere/as long as it is an unfamiliar place/and as long as the friend is a man/I will always lead the matter to man-woman relationship/obviously/I'm a woman/and he's a man/it's simply abnormal if we don't have relationship/practically every time my wish is fulfilled/after all, the other party is a man."

Chun does not regard her gender as a woman very important in her writing.

"When I create my works, it does not make much difference whether I'm a woman or a man," she said.

While enjoying the party, Chun made it clear there needs to be more to Women's Day than entertainment, and she hopes that in the future she could join a parade to mark the day, a more unified and public expression of women.

Xiao Qiao, another 80s-born woman, said this was the first time that she had really celebrated Women's Day, and it made her feel older.

"Fortunately, I got to spend the day with so many friends in such a light atmosphere," she remarked.

A junior student of film literature from the Beijing Film Academy, she sang two pieces of Kunqu Opera (traditional Chinese opera originating in Kunshan in Jiangsu Province) which is very good at depicting the female psyche.

"From the ancient sound of Kunqu we can trace much of our nation's memory, which can probably provide some reference for today's women's lives," she said. "At the same time, singing Kunqu is a form of enjoyment and relaxation for me, as well as a way to add to the fun at friends gatherings."

Apart from live performances, the display of visual arts was an important part of the event.

Cristina Ropolo, an Italian photographer working at the Italian Embassy in Beijing, exhibited some of her photos at the party.

Short films by five young women film directors, Liu Jiayin, Wang Fen, Cao Fei, Wang Bang and Feng Wenze were also shown.

The most unique visual work was probably a large poster outside the Yugong Yishan Club by artist Chen Lingyang, which read "Chen Lingyang was married as of December 31, 2004. Chen Lingyang will retire from the arts world. -Chen Lingyang No 2, March 7, 2005."

Explaining the inspiration, Chen, who graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1999 said, "Chen Lingyang" and "Chen Lingyang No 2" represent her two selves. The first is Chen the artist, the second is Chen as a member of the arts scene.

Abstract as the work may seem, it represents the artist's thinking on the living conditions of women, especially of women artists.

Though Chen is often invited to create works for Women's Day, she regards herself as an artist who just happens to be a woman.

"What I hope to do is to create works with both a deep personal touch and general cultural background," she said.

The most welcome part of the party was the music, performed by two bands called Ziyo and Subs, both featuring female lead singers.

Feng Haining, lead singer of the funk/punk band Ziyo, was born in Beijing but grew up in the United States. She returned two years ago, and formed her band in 2004.

"Our songs are usually about things that disturb us in everyday life, like separation, lack of money or being misunderstood," said Feng.

However, audience numbers were much lower when her band performed as women, she suggests, are not so highly respected in the rock music scene.

"Today the audience was so encouraging that we gave our best," she said. "If there is another party like this next year I'll certainly come to perform."

More than 400 people, of whom about half were men, joined the party.

"On every March 8, many areas of society pay special attention to women, with employers giving time off and gifts, but there are some women who are forgotten," said one of the party organizers - a man - nicknamed Lao Yang - old goat. "This party is for women to celebrate the festival in their own way, for every woman is a beautiful soul."

Most people had a good time, but some suggested in the party atmosphere the audience had not paid enough respect to the artists.

"It's wonderful to see the works of young women artists, but socializing prevented many people from appreciating the works seriously," said 32-year-old Li Baoyan, a man in the audience. "I hope I'll have a chance to see these artists' works in a more formal environment."

Lao Yang said that it was his intention to create a relaxed atmosphere for people to enjoy the festival, otherwise he would have chosen a more formal venue. He added that he would go on to help organize other performances for independent women artists, and not necessarily on Women's Day.

Friedman's words probably best summed up the true spirit behind Women's Day: "Women's Day is a day for us to pay attention to the lives of women, but we should not forget it on the other 364 days of the year."

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