Take one French choreographer, one Taiwanese actress-director, four Taiwanese modern dancers and a 19th-century American poet, throw them together in Taipei for two months and you get Will There Really Be A Morning?, which opens on Feb. 24 at the Experimental Theater as part of the Taiwan International Festival of Art.
Myriam Herve-Gil, artistic director of her own eponymous dance company, met Hsu Yen-ling (徐堰鈴) of Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters at the 2009 Avignon Fringe Festival in France, where they found they had a mutual passion for the poems of Emily Dickinson. Their conversations about Dickinson formed the foundation for this production, which mixes dance, music, poetry and Mandarin and English in an exploration of what it means to be a woman and an artist.
Herve-Gil teamed up with Dance Forum Taipei (舞蹈空間舞蹈團) and its founder and artistic director Ping Heng (平珩) because she had seen them perform in the US.
A reclusive poet may not seem to be the most likely inspiration for a dance production, but at a press conference at the National Theater last month, Herve-Gil said Dickinson loved to sing and dance, and that her life and work were inspiring.
Though many of Dickinson’s poems focus on death and immortality, Herve-Gil said the piece is not heavy.
“The comedy in the text is reflected in the choreography; we have an excellent pianist who really reflects the personality of Emily Dickinson,” Herve-Gil said. “The piano is really important to this piece. Emily Dickinson really liked to sing, to dance.”
When asked what attracted her to Dickinson, Herve-Gil said it was the poet’s life.
“I was surprised to find she decided … to retire from the world,” she said. “I wanted to do something [like her], to stop living in the world, live in a small house with only books.”
WHAT: Will There Really Be a Morning?
WHEN: Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 at 7:30pm and Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 at 2:30pm
WHERE: Experimental Theater (國家戲劇院實驗劇場), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)
ADMISSION: Sold out apart from Feb. 24. Tickets are NT$600, available at NTCH box offices, online at www.artstickets.com.tw, and at 7-Eleven ibon kiosks
There was a personal connection with Dickinson as well, she said.
“I worked in Philadelphia for a few years, went to Jacobs Pillow [Dance Festival in Massachusetts, which is not too far from Amherst, where Dickinson lived] a few times and went to Boston and Washington, where she also went,” Herve-Gil said. “She died at 56; I’m 56.”
Dickson’s unique writing style, her unconventional punctuation and capitalization and her use of dashes to separate the texts of her poems proved helpful to the creative team by providing a sense of rhythm.
“In one [poem] she says ‘I don’t know how to dance.’ It was perfect,” Herve-Gil said.