Q&A: Made in Them

In this article, we chat to dancers and choreographers Xin Ji and Xiao Chao about their work ‘MADE IN THEM’, premiering at Auckland's ASB Waterfront Theatre on 21 and 22 April. The work explores how society influences our ability to discover and express our authentic selves and makes up half of a double bill (titled Stage of Being) alongside Tupua Tigafua's LittleBits and AddOns. The Foundation supported The New Zealand Dance Company with the production of Stage of Being through its Arts Project Fund.
A portrait photograph of choreographers Xin Ji and Xiao Chao

Xiao Chao (left) and Xin Ji (Photo: John McDermott)

Can you describe Made in Them and why you both wanted to create it?

Xin Ji: MADE IN THEM is a contemporary dance work made by my longtime collaborator Chao and myself. With this work we both want to explore in further depth with our human emotions when we are facing the extremities of being in certain environments, events, sometimes around certain people.

The idea behind the work arose out of COVID-19 which raised countless emotions that we couldn't ignore and made us want to use it as an artistic expression.

I believe sharing is loving. Especially for artists. And to share our voices via a platform that allows everyone to have their own interpretation/projection on top of our work is a very personal sharing.

Xiao Chao: First of all, we like the word combination ‘MADE IN …; it gives me feeling of a purpose and serves us as a diversified product. The metaphor behind ‘MADE IN……’ for me is tangible. But at the same time, that tangibility creates intangible emotions for us, such as fear, sadness, joy... That’s why we named the work ‘MADE IN THEM’, and of course ‘THEY’ also includes us.

This is also the driving force for us to make this work. We are exploring the root of the emotions in ‘MADE’, and what kind of emotions we will ‘MAKE' in the theatre.

How did the two of you connect and start collaborating?

Xiao Chao: Xin and I met when I was an exchange student at UNITEC back in 2012 studying contemporary dance and choreography. We immediately became friends as we loved discussing arts and how to create cool dance works.

We have kept in touch over the past 10 years and often we share each other's experiences and feelings of creating works. We have always been looking for the opportunity to make a work together, and 10 years later, the dream has come true.

Dancers in a studio practising their moves

Xiao: "I hope that the audience can be left with strong feelings after seeing the dance." (Photo: John McDermott)

How does collaborating with another practitioner impact a work?

Xin Ji: Good things about collaborations are that they give everything a double mount. It definitely reduces the time of being in ‘stuck mode’. It makes the editing process much quicker and easier; it gives you mental support knowing that you are not the only one carrying the pressure.

 Don’t get me wrong, there are absolutely negative things about the collaboration too. Such as fighting for whose ideas are better. haha

Is contemporary dance from China noticeably different from what you typically see in New Zealand?

Xiao Chao: I think the only difference is the dance training system. Contemporary dance itself is unique and has the ability to explore things. So in terms of choreographing, I think more differences the better.

Six dancers rehersing in a studio

Rehearsing for Made in Them Photo: John McDermott

Is there a synergy between Made in Them and Tupua Tigafua’s work? 

Xin Ji: I think the synergy between our two works is that our works will make you think and feel. These two works for me are like watching films, which you can be absorbed in their worlds.

What do you both hope audiences will take away from the performance?

Xiao Chao: I hope that the audience can be left with strong feelings after seeing the dance. Those feelings may be messy, clear or even ambiguous.

I hope that through this work, the audience will have the opportunity to face their emotions that been 'MADE' in their own lives and have this opportunity to accept them, hopefully heal them.

Xin Ji: We hope audiences will go home with the realisation of what feelings and emotions came up for them during the show and to wonder why. The audiences will definitely be amazed by our incredibly talented dancers, and Xiao and I both enjoy creating  physically satisfying work.

The Arts Project Fund supports New Zealand professional arts companies, events and organisations to deliver projects that will grow New Zealanders' awareness and knowledge of Asian arts.