Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Blind lead the sighted in `Peau d'Ame'

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Liu Mao-ying tells of going blind as a child in Peau d'Ame at the Experimental Theater tonight through Sunday afternoon.

PHOTO: DAVID MOMPHARD, TAIPEI TIMES

In December of 2002, the Taiwan New Bodo Arts Association for the Visually Impaired (台灣新寶島視障藝文協會) staged a dance with several of the association's members. It was an experiment fraught with challenges for each of the blind dancers and their choreographer, Emilie Hernandez. Many of the performers shied away from the challenge, but those that embraced it surprised audiences with a performance of untethered emotion unlike anything they had previously seen. Those performers return to the stage this weekend and audiences are sure to be surprised again.

Peau d'Ame (靈蕊), or "skin of the soul," differs from that last performance by pairing three blind dancers with four sighted dancers, including Hernandez, who has again served as choreographer.

"The performance is a process between sighted people and the blind," Hernandez said. "Everyone goes through a metamorphosis."

It seems to have already happened. Their performance a year-and-a-half ago was more prosaic than poetic and lacked the polish that comes with years of dance training. What the audience saw looked not so much like dance as an exploration of space by people who experience it differently. In the current production, the effect of adding sighted dancers not only provides that polish, it seems to have freed the blind dancers to greater levels of expression.

Liao Tsan-cheng (廖燦誠), one of the returning performers, lost the vision in his right eye in 1981 and went completely blind 12 years later. He was then and continues to be a calligrapher, writer and artist.

"I once wrote an article about how calligraphy and the music of dance are alike," Liao said. "Now I use the movement I know from brush strokes in dancing."

Another of the returning performers, Liu Mao-ying (劉懋瑩), is already a seasoned actor and has performed a one-man show in Taipei and Hong Kong that was written and directed by playwright Wang Mo-lin (王墨林).

Liu, 53, started going blind in elementary school and has been totally blind for five years. Each of his seven brothers and sisters suffer the same degenerative eye disease. In Peau d'Ame, Liu performs a piece with a sighted dancer that is an examination of his life as a young boy slowly going blind, living with a family that was already half blind.

In another segment, which is the show's title piece, Liu dances with Hernandez. Peau d'Ame is taken from a famous children's story about a princess covered in a donkey's hide, or peau d'ane.

"Mao-ying is very heavy inside," Hernandez said of her dance partner. "In this piece, he has found a way to slowly change his heaviness into something lighter."

The third blind performer, Lee Hsin-bao (李新寶) delighted audiences in 2002 with a natural proclivity for dance and is this time paired with Yu Shao-jing (游紹菁), a professional dancer with Taipei Dance Circle.

Peau d'Ame runs tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm and at 2:30pm on Sunday in the Experimental Theater of the National Theater Hall. Tickets cost NT$300 per person and are available at the door. For more information, check out the production's Web site at http://homelkimo.com.tw/peau_dame/index/htm.

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