Wed, Oct 02, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Synapse overload

Dancecology’s latest work combines dance with science fiction in a bizarre performance that probably left many scratching their heads

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Dancecology performed its latest work, Synapse, at Huashan 1914 Creative Park in Taipei over the weekend.

Photo Courtesy of Dancecology

I had never seen a science-fiction movie danced before — although this was not a gap in my experience that I felt I had missed before Saturday’s matinee performance of Synapse by Dancecology (舞蹈生態系創意團隊) at Taipei’s Huashan 1914 Creative Park.

However, as a child, I did watch a lot of Saturday afternoon TV featuring reruns of sci-fi movies made in the 1950s, such as Invasion from Mars (1953), complete with ethereal tonal music. A recurrent theme in such movies is the question, sometimes left unresolved, of whether the main character is actually living the events or trapped in a nightmarish dream. I felt that way on Saturday.

In the gloom of the second-floor auditorium at the park’s Fruit Wine Building the audience was seated against and atop the stage at one end of the room. The rest of the space was filled with white debris and trash, with curtains hanging in the back and another large piece of cloth suspended off the right wall in the middle of the room. There was a small monitor just below the ceiling and an old trash-covered TV set on the floor near the seats. I had a fleeting sense of deja vu, for weeks earlier Horse’s (驫舞劇場) photography exhibition Dancing on Paper had been held on the building’s first floor in an equally trash-decorated room.

Dancecology’s works center on environmental theater, with a focus, as the program notes said, on the “ecological concepts of circulation and symbiosis,” especially “recycling” in ecosystems. Obviously mankind’s waste was going to be a key element of Synapse.

The performance began, as much sci-fi does, with flashbacks of war — the TV showing grainy clips of German troops marching in World War II, a glimpse of Adolf Hitler, footage of Imperial Japanese Army soldiers and a mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb blast.

Frenchman Claude Aymon was the first performer to appear, clad in a white sleeveless tunic and pants, salvaging items from trash piles before retreating behind the cloth drape, which served as his den. Once he was in the den, piles of trash began to move — with an arm, a leg or a foot occasionally appearing. This scenario was repeated several times with four trash creatures (or larvae as I wrote in my notes) emerging only when Aymon was in his den. Each time the larvae moved around a bit more, wiggling on their stomach, backs or sides. Eventually all this movement cleared the center of the floor of trash, though it was unclear if the larvae were supposed to have eaten the stuff or if the cleanup was a by-product of the wiggling.

About 15 minutes into the piece, one of the men sitting in front of me pulled out his cellphone so he could read his program by the phone’s screen light, apparently trying to figure out what was going on. I wanted to tell him not to bother. The one thing I learned from watching all those sci-fi movies as a child was that you had to stick with the show until the end, no matter how corny, scary or bad it was, to make sure the humans survived; otherwise you would end up dreaming about the story for weeks.

Of course at some point Aymon had to bump into the larvae and he came to the aid of one, carefully giving it liquid from one of his salvaged drink cans. Eventually all four larvae were able to stand on their feet, though they spent some time bumping into each other before — with Aymon’s help — developing better coordination. At one point Aymon and the four Taiwanese dancers lined up in the den, backlit, with a horizontal line of blue sparks running through their bodies — perhaps the “spark motivating the body’s synapses” mentioned in the promotional material.

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