Thu, Aug 09, 2018 - Page 13 News List

No illusions about planetary threats and aging populations

Dance productions by two southern-Taiwan born choreographers examine major issues facing Taiwan, one through ballet and the other through contemporary dance

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

The Formosa Ballet will perform Allen Yu’s new work, Lost Illusion, at the Metropolitan Hall in Taipei on Saturday and Sunday, followed by shows next week in Taichung and Hsinchu County’s Jhubei City.

Photo courtesy of Sandy Ouyang

Works by two southern-born choreographers are being staged in Taipei this weekend. Although the men could not be more different — Tainan-born Allen Yu (余能盛), who was the first male Taiwanese professional dancer in Europe and the first Taiwanese director of a European ballet company, has spent most of his life working abroad, while the much younger Chang Chung-an (張忠安), a contemporary dance choreographer, has remained in Pingtung County — both have created a string of works inspired by the problems they see in Taiwanese society.

Yu, who has returned from Europe each summer for more than two decades to produce ballet productions in Taipei, and who two years ago was named Tainan Municipal Cultural Center’s first artistic director, has been busy this week putting the final touches on Lost Illusion (失落的幻影), which opens at the Metropolitan Hall on Saturday.

Chang’s troupe, Resident Island Dance Theatre (滯留島舞蹈劇場), will perform Collapse (鏽塔) at the National Experimental Theater, which the company premiered late last year down south, starting tomorrow night.

Lost Illusion

In an interview on Monday, Yu said he has sort of come full circle with Lost Illusion. He says the piece grew out of one he created 24 years ago in Germany as a 35-minute work, which was performed in Germany and the National Theater.

“The story is the same, about war and man-made disasters, but the music is different,” he said, adding “I really wanted to do this piece; it holds a lot of memories of my career.”

Yu said he was originally inspired by a sculpture with missing limbs that he saw in a museum and the decay exposed by the missing parts. He wondered what it looked like when it was first made and how it had come to be damaged.

“I started to imagine the sculpture in antiquity must have been very beautiful, so maybe an earthquake, war or something else had destroyed it,” he said.

While a damaged museum relic was the inspiration for his initial version of the work, in the years since, he said he has been shocked by the many examples of ancient sculptures and objects being wantonly destroyed, including the Taliban’s dynamiting of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001 and the Islamic State group destruction of ancient monuments in the Iraqi city of Palmyra.

He also thought about how damaged artworks are repaired.

“We can make statues look like new, but if you look inside you can see the rot,” he said.

That pretty much sums up what Yu sees as a major issue today: the way mankind has been destroying the Earth, while pretending on the surface that everything is still alright, that life can still be pretty.

However, he acknowledges that natural disasters also have a major impact, so while the first act of Lost Illusion covers mankind’s degradations, act two covers Mother Nature’s ravages.

Yu says the piece is quite modern and he constructed it as 12 pictures: Number 1 is Greece’s Golden Age; number 2 is human life; 3, is the prelude to war; 4 is departures and family separations; 5 is war; 6 is after the war. In the second half 7 is about human destiny; 8 is natural disasters; 9 is after the disaster; 10 was inspired by [Edvard Munch’s] The Scream; 11 is about confession and begging the gods for mercy and 12 is the return of the golden age, where the gods show their forgiveness.

Yu said he used sculptural props, thematic colors schemes and a variety of music to set the tone for each of his “pictures.”

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