Project June 4th

“If I can’t revolt, I don’t want to be part of your dance.”  

Project June 4th is a 24-hour online dance commemoration of the Tiananmen Square protests that took place in 1989 (Beijing, China). It is motivated by the desire to use dance as a tool to speak out against state censorship of peaceful dissent, criticism and alternative political views, and the systemic erasure and rewriting of history. For once we forget, history repeats itself and the oppressors become emboldened.

June 4th is the day when the peaceful mass student protests on Tiananmen Square were put down with military force in 1989. More than 30 years have passed, but the Chinese government still continues to suppress any mention or acknowledgement of the incident. In 2021, the Chinese authority has also banned all events commemorating the Tiananmen incident in Hong Kong, resulting in memorials being removed, and artists and journalists being arrested.The movement sequence of the “Tank Man” is the focus of this commemoration. Tank Man (also known as the Unknown Protester or Unknown Rebel) is the nickname given to the unidentified Chinese man who blocked a column of tanks leaving Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 5, 1989, the day after the Chinese government’s violent crackdown on the Tiananmen protests. The choreography represents the potential that lies within ordinary persons to stop the machines of violence and oppression. It is also a call-out to stand up against injustice, no matter how small we think we are and how insurmountable we think the task is. 

In Project June 4th, 6 dancers take turn to perform the “Tank Man” choreography throughout the 24-hour commemoration. Each of them will attempt to perform and interpret the choreography in a way that expresses their individual position, thoughts and relationship to the Tiananmen Square incident, state censorship and the fight for human rights and democracy.

The commemoration takes place on online, so that people living in different parts of the world can join in the commemoration.

Video of Tank Man choreography

Supported by Fonds Darstellende Künste with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media

Dancers and their commemorative actions (alias is used to protect their identities):
1. Pink Tank:  “Watch out. The world is not behind you.”
This is an individual search for traces of people, history, belonging, answers, and guidance in a situation that looks like there is no escape, no hope, and no possible future. When freedom seems to be lost because of constant surveillance by the authorities.

It commemorates a personal history of loss connected to political acts and the despair they face, while their hometown, Hong Kong, itself is becoming a Tank to stand in front of. This commemoration acknowledges personal failure in times of crisis and exposes the vulnerability that failing is related to.

2. Tank Ghost: “Of Ghosts and Shells”
Clarity is often swiftly demanded during crisis. But things are often never as simple as they seem. This is a contemplative session of moral dilemmas that highlight the complexity of choice. An invitation to consider the nuances behind decisive action.

3. Tank Zheng: “No Tank On Rainbow”
I stand for colors. I stand for justice. I stand for equality.

4. Tank Sexy: “The Days Without Cigarettes / 沒有煙抽的日子
“It’s dark now.
The road can’t extend to the dawn.
Each piece of my longing is paved.
On the streets of the tiny grey town.
Likely you don’t like it.
That there’s no blue dove flying.”

When public expression is forcibly suppressed by authority, how can a private, personal act still remain political? Can singing to oneself or writing by oneself become a personal act powerful enough to affect the politics of a public?

5. Tank Plant: “Planting the Reality”
Which past voices or acts of courage are still present in our realities today
What considerations must be included in our urgent actions and reactions towards the maintenance of fairness?

Gardening, an act of tending carefully to the next generation; an understanding of how the past affects the present, and how our actions in the present can effect change for our future. Gardening, a metaphor for the maintenance of the values we hold dear in our communities. However fertile the soil may be, only dedicated attention to our garden will ensure it flourishes. Which tools are needed for gardening? How do we make a garden flourish?

6. Tank Critique Critique: “Which tanks will you stand in front of today?”
On 5 June 1989, a slim male figure stood defiantly in front of a column of tanks at Tiananmen Square. His action has since become one of the emblematic symbols of resistance. Today, surely there are many other ‘tanks’ that we still need to stand in front of? Which ones will you stand in front of today?