Fri, Apr 15, 2016 - Page 12 News List

When clothes are more than the man

Lin Yi-jie has delved deep into the closet for her latest work for the Sun-Shier Dance Theatre, a look at the secret lives and dreams of jackets, shirts and other apparel

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Sun-Shier Dance Theatre will perform Lin Yi-jie’s The Place: a Puppet, a Closet, a Fantasy at Taipei’s Wenshan Theater, starting next Friday.

Photo courtesy of Sun-Shier Dance Theatre

Watching a white shirt and brown pair of pants dance or several jackets hanging from a closet rail cavort might sound like a snooze fest, unless one knows that it is the Sun-Shier Dance Theatre (三 十舞蹈劇場) behind the spectacle.

The troupe’s reputation means that an evening’s (or afternoon’s) explorations into the existential angst of apparel yearning for a little freedom is likely to be both entertaining and thought provoking.

The Place: a Puppet, a Closet, a Fantasy (所在-人與偶幻化的奇特空間), the company’s latest work, opens at Taipei’s Wenshan Theater on April 22 for four shows, with one more show scheduled for Kaohsiung in May.

The piece was choreographed by former dancer Lin Yi-jie (林依潔), who also created Have a Nice Trip (祝你一路順風) as part of a double-bill for the troupe in 2013.

The 70-minute-long The Place: a Puppet, a Closet, a Fantasy is the first full-length dance that Lin has created on her own, and expands on a shorter workshop piece she made earlier.

Six dancers first manipulate a large stick puppet that consists only of a long-sleeved white shirt, brown pants and brown belt, a creation that seemingly seeks to break free of the confines of the metal-frame closet that it inhabits.

Later a male dancer, similarly clad, appears to taunt the puppet by flaunting a freedom of movement the puppet cannot match.

Other segments see dancers in jackets on clothes hangers dangling from the upper railing of the closet.

While the dancers have the luxury of escaping the physical confines of the closet, the various items of apparel do not. If clothes make the man, as the saying goes, what can clothes make of mankind’s world, Lin appears to be asking. Who knows what fantasies might lurk within those tightly packed spaces?

While the subject matter is unusual, it is not any stranger than what inspired her black comedy Have a Nice Trip — a funeral.

Looking at the company’s five-minute promotional video, The Place: a Puppet, a Closet, a Fantasy, appears to be a fitting follow-up to the company’s Take Off 2015 (逃亡2015), performed at Taipei’s Experimental Theater as part of the Taiwan International Festival of Arts last year, which raised questions about personal identity, freedom and fantasies.

Sun-Shier, founded in 1997 by dancers Wu Bi-rong (吳碧容) and Chang Hsiu-ping (張秀萍), has developed a reputation for unconventional works that examine modern society through a fusion of contemporary dance and multimedia staging, including issues of gender, feminism and identity, often in quite humorous, even absurdist, ways.

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