Fri, Sep 04, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Marking a life well lived — and well oiled

Taiwanese dancer/choreographer Liou Show-lu created a unique technique with his body oil series for the Taipei Dance Circle. His wife and troupe cofounder Yang Wan-rung decided to commemorate his life by inviting three artists to create new works for the company

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

The Taipei Dance Circle is marking the one-year anniversary of cofounder and artistic director Liou Show-lu’s death with a new production, Lending Ear to Dance, Eye to Sound, at the Experimental Theater in Taipei next week.

Photo Courtesy of Li Ming-shiun

If, and how, to survive after your founder dies or retires is a major question that dance companies around the world have struggled with, and continue to do so, with varying degrees of success.

It is a question that faced Yang Wan-rung (楊宛蓉) after her husband and cofounder of the Taipei Dance Circle (光環舞集), Liou Shaw-lu (劉紹爐), died on Sept. 1 last year at the age of 65 after the reoccurrence of a brain tumor.

His death came just weeks before the scheduled premiere of Chakra Dances (舞輪脈), which Liou had created to mark the company’s 30th anniversary. The company went ahead with the performances at the Experimental Theater in Taipei, and the rest of the tour, but the question of the company’s future was on the minds of company and audience members alike.

For while Liou and Yang had founded the troupe together — when they were still dancers with Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) — she was the backbone of the company, handing the administrative and logistics, while Liou was the artistic director and choreographer — and a key performer in the shows almost to the last.

His works, especially the baby-oil series that became the company’s signature, were the result of his years-long pursuit of frictionless movement, breathing techniques and experiments with vocalization, and quite unlike anything else being done in Taiwan or the rest of the world.

However, Liou had said he wanted the company to go on, and so Yang made the decision to produce a new show this year, one that would both honor her husband and mark a new starting point for the troupe.

She asked three friends — two Taiwanese choreographers and a Dutch “sound explorer and performance artist” — to create new works: Yu Cheng-chieh (余承婕), an associate professor at University of California, Los Angeles; Su Wen-chi (蘇文琪), the founder of YiLab (一當代舞團), who divides her time between Taiwan and London; and Taoyuan-based Mark van Tongeren, who earned a masters’ in ethnomusicology and a doctorate in artistic research, and focuses on overtone singing and theater performance.

Performance Notes

What: Lending Ear to Dance, Eye to Sound

When: Thursday, Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 at 7:30pm, and Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 at 2:30pm

Where: National Experimental Theater (國家實驗劇場), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)

Admission: NTS$500, available at NTCH box offices, online at and at convenience store ticket kiosks

Additional Performance: Sept. 16 at 7:30pm at the Hsinchu Municipal Performance Hall (新竹市文化局演藝廳), 16, Dongda Rd Sec 2, Hsinchu City (新竹市東大路二段17號); tickets are NT$300 and NT$400, available as above or at the door

The 90-minute show, Lending Ear to Dance, Eye to Sound (聽舞觀聲), opens at the Experimental Theater on Thursday for five shows and then moves to the Hsinchu Municipal Performance Hall for one performance at Sept. 16.

The three works focus on different elements of Liou’s baby oil dances. Yu’s piece, Submerge/Emerge, a documentary-based exploration of Liou’s work, opens the show, followed by Su’s Requiem, which centers on memories of Liou and his dancers, while van Tongeren’s Raw Impulse focuses on the creation of sounds and the body and ties into Liou’s exploration of voices live onstage.

I caught up with Yu, another Cloud Gate alumnus, on Friday last week to talk about her work on the show and her decades-long friendship with Liou and Yang.

“When Shaw-lu established his company, I was a dance student ... we all looked up to him… he was at New York University about the same time as I was [they both studied at the Tisch School of the Arts]. He was always an inspiration, his dedication, his persistence in studying inspired me,” she said, adding that she would frequently see him outside of school at two or three dance events a week, which were just a fraction of the shows he saw.

They stayed in touch after Liou returned to Taiwan, and Yu stayed in the US to dance with several choreographers, including Jose Limon, Gus Solomons and Bebe Miller, before becoming a choreographer herself and turning to academia. He often asked her to teach classes to his dancers whenever she was back on a visit to her family or for performances of her work.

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