Fri, May 05, 2006 - Page 13 News List

The Olympic Circle

The liberal use of baby oil marks the Taipei Dance Circle out from its peers and produces dances of friction-defying dimensions

By Diane Baker  /  STAFF REPORTER

In the spring, as the weather grows warmer and the sun shines stronger, many people start to think about tanning lotions and sun blocks. But dance fans start thinking of baby oil, for spring also traditionally brings with it a new work by the Taipei Dance Circle (光環舞集). For more than a decade, that has meant baby oil and lots of it.

The company began its tour in Hsinchu on April 16 and picks it up again tomorrow in Sinjhuang, presenting a new version of founder and choreographer Liou Shaw-lu's (劉紹爐) award-winning 1994 piece Olympics (奧林匹克), which draws heavily on his "swimming on the floor" choreography.

The company's practically nude, androgynous-looking dancers -- the women clad in flesh-colored Speedo-swimsuit style leotards and nylon swimming caps, and then men in their flesh-colored briefs and shaved heads -- look as if they are ready to compete in a 400m individual medley event at a swim meet -- until they start leaping and flipping through the air like polished gymnasts.

Given that Liou was a competitive swimmer and a gymnast before he began to study dance, eventually becoming one of the founding members of the Cloud Gate Dance Theater in 1973, such comparisons are inevitable.

Liou has been obsessed with the idea of motion in a frictionless environment from the very beginning of the Taipei Dance Circle, which he and his wife Yang Wan-jung (楊宛蓉) founded in 1984.

For years his dancers have worked on a specially made transparent plastic carpet while soaked in baby oil, which allows them to glide and spin with almost gravity-defying ease.

His insistence that his dancers study taichi -- as his former mentor Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) has done with his Cloud Gate company -- and yoga has given them the grounding and stability needed for such slippery work. Liou's choreography has also drawn heavily on the Chinese martial arts tradition that has given modern dance companies in Taiwan such as Taipei Dance Circle and Cloud Gate such a distinctive look.

The idea behind Olympics is dance as a sports event. The dancers glide like skaters and skiers, tumble and turn like gymnasts and wade through the air as if their were synchronized swimmers, pausing here and there in poses as still as if they had become statues.

In Liou's choreography, each dancer's breath, body and mind become a single unit, and together the dancers move like a well-oiled machine, which is exactly what they are.

Taipei-based fans will have to travel a bit if they want to see Olympics because the closest the company is coming to the capital on their current tour is Taipei County tomorrow night.

WHAT: Taipei Dance Circle

WHERE and WHEN: May 6 -- Sinjhuang Cultural and Arts Center (新莊文化藝術中心演藝廳) 133 Jhongping Rd, Sinjhuang City, Taipei County (台北縣新莊市中平路133)

May 13 -- Kaohsiung City Cultural Center (高雄市文化中心至德堂) 67 Wufu First Rd, Lingya Area, Kaohsiung City (高雄市苓雅區五福一路67)

May 17 -- Nantou County Cultural Affairs Bureau (南投縣文化局演藝廳) 135 Chienkuo Rd, Nantou City, Nantou County (南投縣南投市建國路135)

May 22 -- Taichung's Chungshan Hall (台中市文化局中山堂) 98 Hsuehshih Rd, Taichung City (台中市學士路98)

May 27 -- Chiayi County Performing Arts Center (嘉義縣表演藝術中心) 265 Chienkuo Rd Sec 2, Minhsiung Township, Chiayi County (嘉藝縣民雄鄉建國路2265)

TICKETS: for Sinjhuang, Nantou County and Chiayi County are NT$200 and NT$300; for Taichung and Kaohsiung performances, NT$300, NT$500, NT$700. Available through www.artsticket.com.tw

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