Dance: Edwaard Liang piece set to debut in Davos

Lori Kurtzman
Edwaard Liang

The magnitude of the assignment didn't strike Edwaard Liang right away. Famed Italian dancer Roberto Bolle asked him to choreograph a new piece, something that would be rehearsed in Milan and performed this month in Davos, Switzerland. “I didn't realize the importance of this forum until my executive director, Sue Porter, explained it to me,” Liang says during a Skype interview from Milan. “She was kind of floored.”

Here's why: Liang's piece is debuting at the World Economic Forum, a big-deal gathering of the top corporate, government and thought leaders from more than 100 countries. Liang's work will help set the stage for the Jan. 23–26 meeting, which carries the weighty theme of “creating a shared future in a fractured world.” It will mark the first time the forum has included dance as part of its opening performance. “I think that our job is to obviously entertain these world leaders, but I truly believe that this is such a huge blessing and great opportunity to be in front of these thought-makers,” Liang says.

The 50-minute piece is a collaboration between Liang and Italian choreographer Massimiliano Volpini. It is meant to highlight the merger of an Italian and Latin American bank (really), so it combines Antonio Vivaldi's Italian classic “The Four Seasons” with the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla's feisty “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.”

But don't be silly. The dance, which will be performed by Bolle and the principal dancers from the La Scala company, won't feature tellers ringing registers or spinning vault locks. Liang, thrilled by the opportunity to represent Columbus on a global stage, is looking at his audience not as world financial leaders but as humans who hunger for the same things we all do: art, beauty, compassion.

“What better way in this sort of environment, while they're held captive, to hopefully open up a little bit of inspiration [to go beyond] what makes us more than just meat sacks?” Liang says. “I want them to feel. I want them to be touched. I want them to be connected to their hearts so they can make choices not with their head, but with their heart.”