The National Theater’s “Dancing in Autumn” (舞蹈秋天) series wraps up this weekend with Meimage Dance’s (何曉玫MEIMAGE舞團) renaissance of its ashes (極相林).
It has been several years since the company took to the main stage at the National Theater. The last time was part of the 1+1 series in June 2015 when founder and artistic director Ho Hsiao-mei’s (何曉玫) Camouflage (假裝) shared a double bill with WCdance (林文中舞團) and Lin Wen-chung’s (林文中) Aerodynamics (空氣動力學).
Now for the first time, the company will be appearing on the stage all on its own.
Photo courtesy of Meimage Dance
‘RENAISSANCE OF ITS ASHES’
Ho has been working on renaissance of its ashes for two years, first with students at Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA, 國立臺北藝術大學), where she is a dean of the dance department, creating a segment for the School of Dance’s annual summer concert in June last year and then again in October last year as part of the Kuandu Arts Festival (關渡藝術節).
The difference between the June and October versions was stark.
Photo courtesy of the Taipei Performing Arts Center
In June, eight dancers, clad in flesh-toned leotards, performed to extracts of Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (Symphony No. 3, Op. 36) and Terra Tremuit from The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ’s Templar chants.
The slow measured pace and liquid movements of the dancers as they curved and unfurled their bodies over and around one another on a platform in an exploration of life and creation was sensual and hypnotic.
Although it was just a short segment, it was very different from Ho’s earlier works and very impressive.
Photo courtesy of the Taipei Performing Arts Center
The Chinese title of the work, which translates as “extreme forest,” is a reference to biodiversity, in which vegetation, through periods of growth and decline, reach a stable state.
By October, Ho had changed the music to a much more abstract score, and tweeked the choreography and added seven more dancers, with a crystal-clear stage design and lasers.
The change in the score created more of a distance between the performances and the audience, while the dancers, who were required to twist their bodies into ergonomically challenging positions and movements to portray symbiosis and the journey through life, no longer looked so sensual. If anything, some of the positions appeared downright painful.
However, as a work in progress, the piece was terrific.
Now, the full-length renaissance of its ashes, with 11 dancers, is ready for its world premiere on Saturday. It is still about pain, as Ho believes that pain and strength are linked, even though it is natural to try and avoid pain.
Every time the body or the mind suffers a painful experience, they become stronger, Ho says, comparing it to the how the pain felt while exercising actually means the muscles are strengthening, or how broken hearts can eventually lead to a better relationship.
In her longer version, the journey of life has become more ritualistic.
The show runs about 65 minutes, and Ho has added more smoke effects to the staging, so there is an audience advisory about the use of lasers and the smoke. The score is by electronic music composer Lim Giong (林強) and Hsu Chih-yuan (許志遠), while the stage design is by Sammy Wang (王世信), lighting by Deng Chen-wei (鄧振威) and costumes by Yu Cheng-yu (余承倧).
Meanwhile, some of Ho’s dance students are busy this week, in addition to their school work, taking part in the first Camping Asia, hosted by the Taipei Performing Arts Center (TPAC, 台北表演藝術中心) at locations around Taipei.
The program is the result of an initiative TPAC Director Austin Wang (王孟超) signed with the Centre National de la Danse (CND) of France in Taipei two years ago to create a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary platform of contemporary dance in the region.
CND initiated the Camping project in 2015 as a way of bringing together artists, arts schools, dancers and dance lovers to exchange ideas and collaborate, a summer camp for students and professionals in Paris.
However, it is not just about dance, as students of fine arts, theater, music, architecture and fashion can also take part.
A delegation of local students traveled to France in the last year to take part in the summer camp.
Camping Asia opened on Monday and will run through Friday next week, with more than 100 students from 12 schools in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, California, France and Belgium, as well as an almost equal number of professionals, taking part in workshops, symposiums and performances.
Tonight, some of those professionals will be performing in the CND Factory Artists program at the Dadaocheng Theater (大稻埕戲苑) in Taipei, featuring four works. The show runs about two hours and tickets are NT$600, available through www.artsticket.com.tw or convenience store ticket kiosks.
On Saturday and Sunday, French choreographer Mathilde Monnier and Spanish choregrapher La Ribot will perform their two-woman show, Gustavia (身為女人) at the Yanping Branch of the Taipei Culture Center, which uses the framework of burlesque to explore womanhood, death, performance and artists.
Monnier is the director of the Centre Choregraphique National de Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon, while the Geneva-based La Ribot is also a visual artist and film director.
Also on Saturday afternoon, there will be a “Schools Marathon” on four floors of the Wenshan Theater, where anyone interested in dance can go and watch short performances by students from the 11 schools, as well as performances of a nine-minute work, Everything Not In Its Right Place II by US dancer/choreographer Trajal Harrell.
Harrell is known for combining postmodern dance of the white, artistic middle class with the voguing dance style of African-American and Latino LGBTQ communities.
The idea is that anyone — the students attending the camp, choreographers and other professionals and the general public — can just pop in and out of the rooms or floors to see what is going on and meet the participants.
Some of the University of Taipei’s (臺北市立大學) dance students are also participating in Camping Asia — except for seniors who will be graduating next year.
They have been busy preparing their own concert, Time for us (時代產物), which they will perform at Taipei’s Metropolitan Hall on Sunday afternoon, before taking the show on the road to the Yuanlin Performance Hall (彰化縣員林演藝廳表演廳) in Changhua County’s Yuanlin City (員林市) on Wednesday next week and the Da-Dong Art Center (大東文化藝術中心) in Kaohsiung on Friday.
Tickets for all three shows are a bargain at NT$200 and NT$400 and can be purchased online (www.artsticket.com.tw) or convenience store ticket kiosks.
The program features nine works, six by seniors themselves, ranging from Chinese to Western contemporary and ballet. I watched a rehearsal at the school last week and several of the student choreographed pieces show real promise.
WHAT: Renaissance of its ashes
WHERE: National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)
WHEN: Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm
ADMISSION: Remaining seats NT$600 to NT$1,000, available at NTCH box offices, Eslite ticket desks, online at www.artsticket.com.tw and at convenience store ticketing kiosks
WHAT: Camping Asia — Schools Marathon
WHEN: Saturday from 2pm to 8pm
WHERE: Wenshan Theater (文山劇場), 32 Jingwen St, Taipei City (台北市景文街32號); right behind exit 1 of the Jingmei MRT station on the Xindian line. Floors 6, 8, 10 and 11
WHAT: Camping Asia — Gustavia
WHEN: Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm
WHERE: Taipei Culture Center, Yanping Branch (台北市社教館延平分館), 9F, 21, Dihua St Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市迪化街一段21號9樓)
ADMISSION: NT$600; available at NTCH box offices, Eslite ticket desks, online at www.artsticket.com.tw and at convenience store ticketing kiosks
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