The Experimental Theater was packed on Saturday night for French choreographer Thierry Bae’s Journal d’Inquietude (Diary of Worries), mostly it seemed, to see the not-so-short film that was the centerpiece of the play. And Journal d’Inquietude was definitely more of a play that a dance performance.
Act One was a solo by Bae that has half dance, half monologue, as he described his movements, directed his movements, berated himself and bemoaned the fate of an independent choreographer just trying to survive. Or at least that was what I got out of it, since Bae was speaking French and while Chinese subtitles were projected at the top of screen on the back wall behind him, my reading comprehension is not very good.
Act Two was the video (shot by Francois Lejault), which opens with Bae lying on a floor, talking on his cellphone. His conversations are the main thrust of the video, which supposedly follows him over a 20-day period as he tries to find both a place to put on his dance and someone to perform it.
In the beginning there is a little local flavor added as Bae meets a French friend at a night market food stall for some Taiwan Beer, followed in quick succession by his visits to Chinese medicine doctors for a cupping treatment (with a quick pan of the camera down his much-bruised back at the end of the session) and moxibustion treatment to treat his chronic lung illness. But much of the film is spent in featureless corridors or rooms that could be in any city, any country.
Among those making cameo appearances were dancer Sheu Fang-yi (許芳宜), dancer/choreographers Chou Shu-yi (周書毅) and Lin Wen-chung (林文中) and choreographer Yau Shi-fen (姚淑芬). Bae gets so desperate he even tries to convince film director Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) to join him. The sly in-jokes about Taiwan’s dance world and the life of an artist were much appreciated by the audience. The film ends with Bae getting ready for the performance — apparently on his own — after reassuring the promoter that he does have a local star.
When the lights came back up on Saturday night for Act Three, Bae was directing Lin, late of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, in a solo.
In the film, the two men never met, as Bae runs all over Taipei trying to find the coffee shop where Lin is waiting. The deadpan expression on Lin’s face as he waits for hours before giving up (the passage of time shown by the parade of couples at the table next to Lin’s) was priceless — and a wonderful counterpoint to the fluidity of his body in the solo later on.
Many in the audience (including some members of the Cloud Gate family) knew that Chou had been the uncredited “special guest” on Friday night and there was speculation as to who would dance the Sunday matinee. Several were sure it would Sheu since Yau doesn’t even dance in her own troupe’s (Century Contemporary Dance Company, 世紀當代舞團) shows — but the theater staff were keeping mum.