On its third visit to Taipei, France's acclaimed Compagnie Maguy Marin will give the Asian premiere of its choreographer and namesake's latest work, Umwelt.
Drawing once again on one of her favorite muses, the Irish playwright and poet Samuel Beckett, Maguy Marin has created what European critics have called an astonishing, powerful mix of dance, theater, photography and sculpture.
In her examination of the human condition, Marin's performers disappear and reappear on a set made up of mirrored slabs that almost take on a life of their own. With Umwelt ("the surrounding world"), Marin forces audiences to examine their own reflections and preconceptions about sex, violence, destruction, survival and waste.
One has to use the term "performer" instead of "dancer," since, like the Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus (who's Ultima Vez troupe will be here in November) or Lloyd Newson of the DV8 Physical Theatre (here this past spring), Marin requires her dancers to do more than just move well. They frequently have to speak lines or recite poetry or even play an instrument. And like both the above-mentioned companies, the Compagnie Maguy Marin is really a team effort, with no one dancer in the small group having more of a "star" turn than another in the ensemble pieces.
However, Marin is more frequently compared to her mentor, Maurice Bejart, in whose Ballet of the Twentieth Century she danced for many years. Just like Bejart, the 51-year old Marin tends to polarize audiences with her theatrical pieces -- you either love her work or she leaves you cold.
Considered one of France's most celebrated choreographers -- and certainly one of the most cerebral working today -- Marin's work is structured, intense and multi-layered, as the performers repeat scenes or motifs again and again as if they are trapped in some form of purgatory.
After establishing her first company in 1978 with Daniel Ambash, Marin made her name with her reworkings of two classic ballets, Cendrillon (Cinderella) -- in which all the dancers were costumed and masked as dolls -- and Coppelia, before gaining international recognition for her first Beckett-inspired piece, May B.
Her more recent full-length pieces have been shorter, almost chamber works. Especially in the past few years, they usually have run for just an hour or so. Umwelt is no exception -- it's a straight 60 minutes, with no intermission.
What: Compagnie Maguy Marin
Where: the CKS Cultural Center, National Theater
21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei
When: Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30pm
Tickets: NT$500, NT$700, NT$900, NT$1,200, NT$1,600 and NT$2,000, available through ERA Ticketing or the National Theater box office.