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Free Man From The South

Choreography: Willy TSAO

Poems: LI Bai (Tang Dynasty)

Lighting: Joy CHEN Shi-yue

Costume: XING Ya-meng


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Poems by LI Bai of Tang Dynasty serves as a starting point in Free Man From the South.  It is not about the life on the ancient nor to depict on the emotions of the poet, instead it explores imagery behind the words under the contemporary dance theater aura.  


The piece is set in four acts with: Mountain, Water, Flower and Moon, the four favorite subjects appeared throughout LI Bai’s poems.  Each act is represented by six poems, plus the prologue To Officer LU Xuzhou regarding Mountain Lu and the Epilogue Song of Ending.  A total of 26 well-known poems therefore serves as the text of the piece.  The 14 dancers play the role of both the poet LI Bai as well as the genies arised from the imagination of the poet.  The dancers will both be reciting the elegant verses as well as dancing through the intricate movements, all under a simple background without the hovering of any extravaganza of props nor set, enabling the wholesome white stage to become a free space for the audience to runaway on one’s own imagination.




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Founder/Artistic Director, BeijingDance/LDTX

Council Member, China’s Chinese Dancers Association

Vice Chairman, Guangdong Provincial Dancers Association

Willy TSAO is an influential figure in China’s contemporary dance development as a choreographer, educator, curator, manager and director. Born and educated in Hong Kong, TSAO received his modern dance training in the US. He received his MBA degree from University of Hong Kong. TSAO was named an Honorary Fellow in 2000 and received an Honorary Doctorate in 2015 from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.


As a contemporary dance pioneer in China and Hong Kong, TSAO founded the first and only professional modern dance company, City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC), in Hong Kong in 1979 and has been its artistic director for thirty years from 1989 to 2019; and in 2019, he founded FLSH, a group to further promote the inter-exchange between Hong Kong and mainland modern dance. In China, he was a teacher and advisor to the establishment of the first proper modern dance education program in China at the Guangdong Dance School from 1987 to 1992. He was named artistic director of China’s first professional contemporary dance company, Guangdong Experimental Modern Dance Group, when it was founded by the Guangdong Provincial Government in 1992 and held the post until 1998. In 2004, TSAO was invited by the Guangdong Cultural Bureau to resume as artistic director of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company until 2016. In Beijing, TSAO co-founded a civilian-run professional modern dance company, BeijingDance/LDTX in 2005, and had served as its artistic director since founding. In 2017, TSAO initiated the “China Dance Stations”, an alliance that connects modern dance organizations with a common aspiration towards the prosperity of modern dance in China, constantly contributing to the effective sharing of information, consolidating resources and creating better synergy for exchange and collaboration. Since its establishment, the alliance has linked up more than 50 independent dance organizations.


Committed to nurturing and developing Chinese contemporary dance groups and artists, TSAO established several contemporary dance exchange platforms – the Guangdong Modern Dance Festival, the Beijing Dance Festival and the Guangdong Hong Kong Macao Greater Bay Dance Festival. The annual Beijing Dance Festival was set up in 2008 with TSAO as artistic director. It began as a one-week festivity and has since 2012 expanded to become two-weeks. It has become one of the biggest celebration of dance in Beijing and among cities in China with more than 300 dance artists, over 200 dance students and more than 5000 audience attendance coming from cities throughout China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, as well as across the world from North & Central America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.


TSAO holds several public posts in China. In 2015, he was appointed as council member of the China Dancers Association. In 2016, he was appointed as vice chairman of the Guangdong Provincial Dancers Association.  TSAO also frequently gives lectures and holds workshops in universities and dance groups across China in cities such as: Beijing, Changde, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Daqing, Dongying, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Guiyang, Hangzhou, Hefei, Huhhot, Jinan, Jilin, Korla, Kunming, Lanzhou, Nanchang, Nanjing, Nanning, Ningbo, Ordos, Sanya, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Shijiazhuang, Suzhou, Taiyuan, Tianjin, Urumqi, Wuhan, Xian, Xiamen, Yinchuan, Zhengzhou and China Hong Kong and China Macao.


TSAO’s contribution to dance has been widely recognized. He was awarded “Dancer of Year Award” from the Hong Kong Artists’ Guild in 1988, “Ten Outstanding Young Persons” Award in 1990, "Badge of Honor” from HRH Queen Elizabeth II in 1993, "Louis Cartier Award of Excellence - Outstanding Choreographer” in 1998, “Bronze Bauhinia Star” by the Hong Kong SAR Government in 1999, Distinguished Achievement Award in 2014 and Life Achievement Award in 2017 by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council for his immense and invaluable achievement and contributions to Hong Kong dance. TSAO was invited by the Dance Committee of the International Theater Institute, a partner of the UNESCO, to be the Message Author for Asia-Pacific and delivered the message on International Dance Day 2018.


Since the 1980’s, TSAO has created more than 60 major works. They include: Bird Songs, China Wind-China Fire,365 Ways of Doing and undoing orientalism, Wandering in the Cosmos, One Table N Chairs, Sexing Three Millenniums, Dao: Extraodinair, Conqueror, Warrior Lanling, In Search of Grand View Garden, Journey to the West, and Free Man From the South.  And his choreographies have been presented in Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Korea, United States as well as Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Taipei. In 2008, he was created the opening choreography Andy LAU My Love concert.

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