Fri, Sep 07, 2007 - Page 15 News List

Lest we forget

By Ron Brownlow  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mia Hsieh uses voice and dance to tell the story of her grandfather's death and her family's emigration from China.

Photos: Courtesy of Teresa Lee

Mia Hsieh (謝韻雅) and Wang Pei-chun (王珮君) dance to the music of a kou xian (口弦), or mouth harp, around a wooden frame filled with cotton. They fluff the material, pluck and bang one-stringed Balinese violins against the structure, then hoist it and slowly carry it across the stage, as if it were a boat or a coffin.

Wang and Hsieh are using their bodies to express things many Taiwanese have in common but rarely talk about: the struggle to flee China a half-century ago and rebuild their lives here, the longing for their lost homes, and the pain of separation from relatives who never made it to the other side.

"I have a mission," Hsieh, 36, said in an interview after a rehearsal earlier this week. Her family fled the Dachen Archipelago (大陳等島之戰) to Taiwan in 1955, but her grandfather, who repaired duvets for a living, was trapped in China and eventually lost his mind, landed in jail, and killed himself. "I worry that the next generation will no longer know this history," Hsieh said. "This isn't to tell them they're from China. It's to tell them about where their ancestors came from and how they struggled to survive."

Her dance, Waiting in Troubled Times (動盪中的等待), is part of a 70-minute performance titled The Smallest Flower (最小的花) that is being staged this weekend in Taipei and next weekend in Tainan at Eslite Book Store, B2 (台南誠品書店), 181 Changrong Rd Sec 1 (台南市長榮路一段181號).

Produced by Hsieh's folk band A Moving Sound and sponsored by the National Culture and Arts Foundation and the Chin-lin Foundation for Culture and Arts, the piece uses movement and voice to represent each woman's life story in two solos, and recount their family histories in two duets.

Performance notes

What: The Smallest Flower (最小的花)

Where: Performing Arts School 36 Theater (台北表演36房), 156-1 Muxin Rd Sec 2 (台北市木新路二段156之1號). Call (02) 2939-3088

When: Tonight at 7:30pm and tomorrow at 2:30pm and 7:30pm

Transport: To get there by public transportation, take the Mucha MRT line to Mucha station or the Xindian line to Qizhang station, then take bus 10, 251, 252, 611, G1, or B7 to the Jingwen High School (景文中學) stop, located next to a Wellcome supermarket.

What: Hsieh and Wang will travel to Tainan next weekend for performances When: Sept. 15 at 7:30pm and Sept. 16 at 3:30pm

Where: Eslite Book Store, B2 (台南誠品書店), at 181 Changrong Rd Sec 1 (台南市長榮路一段181號). For more information, call (06) 208-3977

The narratives are incredibly intimate: the viewer, for example, might discern that Wang's mother recently committed suicide, or that Hsieh has traveled to Dachen to bury her grandmother's ashes alongside those of her grandfather. But these details are transformed into universal themes in a performance that is a thoughtful primer for modern dance.

"I want to show people that it can be a song when you feel sadness or sorrow," said Hsieh. "People mistake these emotions for negative energy, but actually if you accept it and allow it to move it can become a beautiful energy."

"Our backgrounds and our family histories are quite different" and "I think it reflects in our way of dealing with art," said Wang, 30, who has lived in the US, Brazil and Israel. Hsieh, on the other hand, only left Taiwan for the first time six years ago.

Wang's duet, Under the Moonlight We Believe (月光下我們相信), memorializes her mother and is more abstract than Hsieh's literal pieces, reflecting her training in modern dance at a liberal arts college in the US. "I'm not trying to tell any story," she said. "I'm just weaving the feminine energy into movement. This is how I feel about my connection with my mother: it's beyond just mother and daughter. It's about two women, two female energies."

"I don't think that I created this piece," she continued. "I think the piece already was already there and I allow the energy to move through me. I'm just a container, a tool for this energy to manifest itself."

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