Fri, Oct 17, 2008 - Page 16 News List

Lights, camera, choreography

By Diane Baker  /  STAFF REPORTER

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Dancing With 37 Arts (37ARTS 舞者紀事), a documentary by Lee Chien-chang (李建常) and Blook Tseng (曾筱竹), is a riveting look at one of the best dancers Taiwan has ever produced, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre and Martha Graham Dance Company alumnus Sheu Fang-yi (許芳宜), as she embarks upon the next stage of her career.

The camera follows Sheu and her partner, choreographer Bulareyaung Pagarlava (布拉瑞揚), to New York City in the summer of 2007 to take up a two-month residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center on 37th Street in Manhattan, and then back to Taiwan as they rehearse for the production that will launch their revived company, LAFA & Artists, in January this year.

Sheu was the first Asian artist, and the first dancer, to be awarded a residency at the Baryshnikov center. She invited Bula, theater director Lee, gymnast Huang Ming-cheng (黃明正) and dancer Chiang Pau-shu (江保樹) to join her. For Sheu and Bula, the New York sojourn was a chance to work on pieces for the company’s debut. But it was also two months of almost 24-hour togetherness that would strain their personal and professional relationship.

The film mixes segments of the January performances — including a lovely shot in the opening montage of Sheu perched like a butterfly on the edge of a table in Bula’s The Single Room, arms and legs gently moving in the air — with rehearsals and private moments in New York and in Taipei. Most of the scenes center around the production of Bula’s new piece, 37 Arts.

Lee and Tseng provide a first-hand look at the struggles of a small company: the star who has to be dancer, mother hen, publicist and fund-raiser all in one; the hard-pushing choreographer who pitches in backstage to sew a costume onto a dancer; young performers striving to meet professional standards; dancers who perform despite illness and injuries; and the last-minute crises that threaten to derail the opening night.

Dancing With 37 Arts offers a rare glimpse into the world of dancers, and into the life of a woman whose dedication and drive are legendary, a woman who says she only feels relaxed and at home on stage. It’s a film that should be in the library of every performing arts and dance school in the world.

The film will be shown tonight at 7pm and on Oct. 25 at 10pm.

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