Arts & Entertainment
1 min

Dance preview: Cock-Pit at Fleck Dance Theatre

Wang's latest work inspired by early life in China

If a choreographer creates a dance piece about a group of pubescent boys living in a boarding school and calls it Cock-Pit, he has to forgive people for assuming it might be about sex. Despite the title and subject matter, Vancouver-based queer choreographer Wen Wei Wang insists his new work is about more than its name would suggest. 

Cock-Pit, which features four men and one woman, is inspired by Wang’s experience studying dance at a Chinese boarding school between the ages of 10 and 13.

“The school was actually owned by the Chinese army, although it was an arts school,” he says.  “My parents were very proud when I got accepted because they felt a bit like I was actually in the army.  It also meant both that our family would be taken care of by the government, and that I could follow my dream of becoming a dancer.”

Military discipline was in full force. The boys slept in fairly close quarters. 

“But it wasn’t much of an adjustment in that way,” he says. “At that time in China, most families had only one room, so we didn’t know that we needed our own space.”

It is in the private space of the sleeping quarters, away from the prying eyes of adults, where Cock-Pit’s action takes place. The boys enter in their army uniforms, talk, play games and fight.  As the action continues, they gradually strip to their underwear. They make impressive use of a bunch of large pheasant feathers, a staple of traditional Beijing opera, which Wang wanted to translate to a contemporary context.  Through the piece, the lone female figure serves as both a projection of their desires and the female side of their personalities. 

“Audiences shouldn’t come expecting a literal story,” Wang says.  “The piece is more like a moving picture.  There are parts that are sad but also a lot of humour.  I hope people can really open themselves up and not be too serious.”

“Although it’s a sexy piece, it’s not really about sex,” he adds.  “It’s about friendship and specifically the kinds of friendships you form at that age.”