Erge Yu

My years in Toulouse and Paris have allowed me to grow as an artist

Trained in classical dance in China where she was born in 1987, Erge Yu arrived in France after discovering contemporary dance. The dancer, who is also a choreographer, created her MoLi solo after a residency in 2019 at the Cité internationale des arts (International City of Arts). 

Updated on 04/03/2020

5 min

Erge Yu
Erge Yu
© Feng Li

You started classical dance in China, then came to France at 23 to learn contemporary dance. What inspired you to bridge this enormous gap, both stylistically and geographically?

I had studied classical ballet and traditional dance for eight years in China. In 2009 I met the choreographer Heddy Maalem, who had come to us to stage his Sacre du Printemps (Rite of Spring), and I started contemporary dance with him. I immediately liked this way of dancing, freer, with a lot more creative possibilities than I could have with classical dance. So I left for France in 2010 to follow him. As I still had some technical shortcomings, on his advice I began to deepen my training as a contemporary dancer at the CDCN (the National Centre for Choreographic Development) in Toulouse.


How do you combine these two ways of dancing in your work today?

After moving to France, I also studied other forms of dance, such as hip-hop and tai-chi... As a choreographer, I'm constantly searching for my own way of dancing, which mixes all the influences my body has absorbed as a performer. Although classical dance is less present in my work - at least consciously - my body memory still retains it.


Is the perception of dance different in France and China?

In France, and in Europe in general, very many forms of dance find their place on stage and the audience easily accepts this diversity and this mix of genres. Artistic research is also freer: since I arrived in France, I've enjoyed using all possible media.

In China, classical and oriental dance dominate the entire artistic scene. The variety of styles is almost non-existent. Contemporary dance is starting to make its way, but it still needs time, development and creative openings.


You have regularly worked as a performer with Sophie Perez and Xavier Boussiron, who combine dance and theatre. What have you learnt from these experiences?

Working with Sophie Perez and Xavier Boussiron completely changed my understanding of choreographic art. Thanks to them, I was able to experience a lot: theatre, work on improvisation, the imaginary and music. This work surprised me and made me think about dance, and about the arts in general. I am learning a lot from them and we are continuing to work together, particularly on a forthcoming show called Les Chauves-souris du volcan (The Volcano Bats), which will be presented at the Pompidou Centre in February 2020.

I love Chinese culture, and the physical training practised in China is very formative. But I also like the more open, freer way of working in France. So I mix it up and keep the best.

After first performing several pieces, you embarked on choreography in 2017 with your piece Hasard (Chance). What motivated this desire to be creative?

I had a lot of inspiration in my head and in my heart. This desire to put all these ideas on stage in my own way was the strongest, and I started choreographing in 2017 when I returned to China, after my training at the CDCN in Toulouse. I met up with dance friends there, and I wanted to create a play about the relationship between people who separate and then reunite, born of my experience as a Chinese dancer who left for France and returned home.


Your last piece, MoLi, was born during your residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. How has this experience matured your choreographic project?

The Cité internationale des arts has helped me enormously by providing a dance studio. I brought in friends of choreographers and artists, as well as other resident artists from the Cité internationale des arts. We talked a lot and it allowed me to adjust my work and my thinking. As I am both a choreographer and performer of MoLi, it’s not always easy to see the bigger picture.


What is the piece about?

It's a piece about women, their status in our society and their inner world. MoLi is still in the process of being designed, and isn’t finished yet. At the moment, I imagine it will take the form of a dialogue between an old woman and the young woman she was. These two figures give rise to actions, structures and transitions. In the gesture of dance I want to find a single, simple movement just to get these two characters talking.

I'm very happy to have the stage designer Camille Rosa back for this solo piece. She watched a lot of rehearsals and we talked a lot. She set up a very simple set of mirrors, an old chair and dried flowers. We're going to perform this piece on a few dates in France in 2020, and maybe in China.


How does this dual French-Chinese culture feed you?

My travels between France and China have allowed me to better understand and make use of a number of cultural differences! I love Chinese culture, and the physical training practised in China is very formative. But I also like the more open, freer way of working in France. My years in Toulouse and Paris allowed me to grow as an artist, mature in my performances and find my own style. So I mix it up and keep the best. And I hope I can continue to stage performances in both countries.

The Institut français and the project

Winner of the Institut français residency programme at the Cité internationale des arts, Erge Yu was in residency in Paris in 2019.


70 winners are welcomed each year as part of the residency programme at the Cité Internationale des Arts. Find out more about residencies at the Cité Internationale des Arts

L'institut français, LAB