Wed, Jun 26, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Review: Taiwanese choreographers provide food for thought, while NDT 1 wows audiences

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Crystal Pite’s The Statement was one of the highlights of the Nederlands Dans Theater’s performances at the National Taichung Theater this month.

Photo courtesy of Rahi Rezvani

There were a lot of ideas percolating about last weekend in Taiwan Made (台灣製造), choreographer Lin Juju’s (林祐如) contribution to the National Theater Concert Hall’s (NTCH) IDEAS Lab series. Most of them worked.

The IDEAS Lab, launched this year, combines what had been the three Innovation Series — theater, dance and music — into one format aimed at encouraging experimentation and collaborations.

Taiwan Made certainly fit the bill, as Lin decided to experiment by creating a piece through a collaborative process with five artists that she knew, although she had not collaborated with them before: dancer/choreographers Huang Huai-te (黃懷德) and Su Pin-wen (蘇品文), freelance dancer Wang Chu-hua (王筑樺), La Gitanita flamenco group founder Lee Lu (李律) and actor/Hao Hsiao Troupe (嚎哮排演) creative director Hsiao Tung-yi (蕭東意).

Lin wanted to explore what people mean and what they feel when they tell foreigners “I am from Taiwan;” what memories does that evoke, what cultural connotations?

Since all six were born in the 1980s, they used that as a starting point to explore Taiwanese identity from a personal perspective as well as a historical one.

The show was designed without seating, with scenes taking place at various spots in the black-box Experimental Theater, which meant the performers — Huang, Hsiao, Su, Wang and Lee — moved around and among the audience, sometimes interacting with them, and forcing audience members at times to choose who to follow, what to watch.

Taiwan Made began with a dialogue between Huang and Hsiao, following a pattern familiar to anyone who has watched Taiwanese television variety shows, talking about childhood influences, including Michael Jackson. A later skit saw Lee recount trying to explain to immigration officials why a Taiwanese wanted to go to Spain and study flamenco.

While the audience began seated on the floor and lining the walls, with a few seated on part of a platform along one wall, everyone was forced to get up and move as the show progressed, making the theater look like a night market at one point, with crowds milling around different vendors; only these vendors were selling experiences, not food or clothing.

Taiwan Made ended with a silent-movie type skit, complete with a dog (stuffed) in a baby stroller, a police man, two births and some family drama, performed under five neon installations along one wall, by Zhou Xin (周欣).

At 70 minutes, the piece is Lin’s first full-length work, and a big departure for her. While I would have liked to see more dance, Taiwan Made proved an interesting experiment.


Another thought-provoking piece was performed the previous weekend at Huashan 1914 Creative Park: Century Contemporary Dance Company (世紀當代舞團) presented Chen Wei-ning’s (陳維寧) The Present (禮物之靈).

Chen put her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Kaohsiung Medical University to work in the piece, which proved to be an often dark exploration of relationships and power dynamics.

It began with some zesty interplay between three couples before moving into scenes of domesticity and everyday life — brushing teeth, getting dressed — and then took a much more sinister turn.

Domestic violence and acts of domination — male on female and vice versa — with snapping fingers, physical manipulation and acts of degradation or slavish devotion came stood in sharp contrast to the playful beginning as well as the colorful, salsa-inspired finale.

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