NYC dancer/choreographer Jiali Wang founded the 7MPR Themed Dance Theater to support the dance community and create an expressive outlet for a variety of those in the city’s dance community. In doing so, she gave voice to a myriad of cultures, ideas, and perspectives that exist in America’s most populous city (more than twice the number of residents than the second most populous, Los Angeles). Covid-19 has stifled the public interaction of 7MPR Themed Dance Theater in the same way it has the music industry, the film industry, restaurants, and almost every type of social activity in the world. Determined to continue the important work and messages communicated by the 7MPR Themed Dance Theater, Jiali has taken these performances online. The uncomfortable transaction of creativity is that it can sometimes become most impactful and prolific in dire times; no other description is better suited to 2020 and Jiali Wang is making excellent use of it. With so many creative professionals sidelined this far into the calendar year, we wanted to see how Jiali is approaching the productions of the 7MPR Themed Dance Theater and views the work which it has accomplished. We sat down with her, virtually of course, and inquired as to her take on 2020 thus far.
You’ve championed dance in New York City. As an artist and a supporter of the dance community, is this a period in time that inspires creativity because of hope or a time that inspires creativity out of frustration?
JW: 2020 has certainly been a trying time. Like many people, I feel like I’m fighting with so many things in life, and yet still fighting to make the world a better place for all. Artists like myself have seen teaching and performances go away or altered, either way, it increases the economic struggle. Many people experience this and what can ease the stress and anxiety is a sense of community. By doing 7MPR performances, I’m meeting other artistic peers and fighting together. I’m not alone, even if I’m extremely challenged. I’m still running 7MPR and building this dance world because it’s something that I should do. I know how artists are feeling. I know I need to do this for people and the art of dance. In the face of financial problems, this thing is priceless in my life. We need to see beautiful things, feel the power from others, listen to expression through dance and music art; all of this makes us warm, strong, and flexible. As an artist and supporter of the dance community, I do think this is a time that inspires creativity because I’m learning through frustration and the loss of things. It brings inspiration by stopping me and making rethink about my life and dance. I’m flowing with it rather than pushing it.
7MPR Themed Dance Theater hosted the First Midnight Virtual Performance on the twelfth of June but this was postponed from a previously scheduled date due to something that’s very important to you and 7MPR’s mission. Can you explain it?
JW: The themes for this performance were NYC Pride, COVID-19, and Black Lives Matter. Two of our performers were scheduled to perform as part of a Black Lives Matter protest in Florida. I decided that they needed our support and their artistic contributions were also vital to our virtual performance. We could adjust our schedule to make it work and that’s exactly what we did. These artists and sisters, Rochelle Underdue and Che Raquel Underdue, delivered dance and spoken word/poetry performance for 7MPR that was profound and riveting. The six other artists, seven choreographers, musicians, and host Andrew Hunter manifested a thoughtful and emotional evening of performances that resonated strongly with our online and Social Media audience.
And you are hosting a second online performance on August 1st. How does one create an environment for such online dance performances? Is there a template?
JW: We ask that the artists submit their most recent works and we have a theme but other than this there is a great amount of creative freedom for them. In this show, all artists’ works are created during the pandemic. Some of works are directly about covid-19. Some of them are related to social issues based on their thoughts and feelings. You will see dance artists dancing in the bathroom, in the shower, in bed, in a bar, kitchen, outside, almost anywhere. They are lovely soldiers against the pandemic with their creativity and artistry. COVID-19 is a major theme of 7MPR Themed Dance Theater-Midnight Virtual Performances throughout 2020. The August performance will ten artists, eight dance artists, and two bands, one of which is Reliant Tom who performed in our Fifth Midnight series in 2019.
You’ve developed this concept of Dance being much more than solely about dance for some time. How would you describe it?
JW: I do believe 7MPR is not just about physical art since I was inspired by my real experience during the American Dance Festival 2016 and developed my research for my MFA thesis. Now it is a miracle to see my thesis has become a real dance theater project as a ‘spiritual tree’ that gathers energies from art, artists, human thoughts, human rights, and the exploration of social factors by addressing social problems through much-talented dance and music works to bring love to each other. There are so many who keep working on dance and music at their own pace in faith and passion for arts. I won’t stop my pace and will keep 7MPR alive for these talented artists who are still working on dance and music to inspire people. I will do my part to keep the lights on!