The Crown Arts Festival (皇冠藝術節), now in its 16th year, has developed a reputation for innovative, imaginative work that crosses artistic and cultural boundaries.
Ping Heng (平珩), the founder of Dance Forum Taipei (舞蹈空間舞蹈團), which coordinates the privately run festival, has frequently said she tries to balance cutting-edge acts or productions with fun because she wants to both push boundaries and provide performances that audiences can really enjoy. The goal, after all, is to get audiences into the black box that is the Crown Theater, and keep them coming back for more.
This year’s festival, which opened last weekend, clearly aims to carry on that tradition. This weekend and the next two will provide Taipei audiences with the chance to see thought-provoking dance and theatrical works by Singaporean and local companies.
Frontier Danceland, which turns 20 in July, could be seen as the Singaporean counterpart of the Dance Forum troupe. Both companies were founded by women (Low Mei Yoke for Frontier), both are small professional troupes, both seek to fuse Western modern dance technique with Asian forms and cultures, and both frequently feature foreign guest choreographers.
Frontier Danceland will perform 22.5 Minutes — Subconscious Indulgence (22.5分鐘的追覓), which premiered in Singapore in November last year. The work is a collaborative effort between Low and Taiwanese choreographer Hsieh Chieh-hua (謝杰樺), who earned a master’s in dance choreography from Taipei National University of the Arts four years ago after first getting a bachelor’s in architecture. His unconventional approach to a career is reflected in his works, like last year’s exploration of spatial relations, Anarchy’s Dream (安娜琪的夢想體驗).
22.5 Minutes — Subconscious Indulgence examines the plight of many modern urban dwellers: Dreams have become a luxury in societies where sleep is hard to come by. Two Dance Forum dancers will perform with the Singaporean and Chinese members of the Frontier troupe.
Next weekend offers adventurous theatergoers a challenging blending of genres — an original Taiwanese play in a Beijing opera format inspired by the work of Japanese postwar avant-garde playwright Terayama Shuji. Written and directed by playwright Liu Liang-yen (劉亮延) — cofounder of the seven-year-old theatrical commune known as the Theatre Company of Lee Qing Zhao the Private (李清照私人劇團) — the play goes by the simple English title of A Peking Opera (作淫愁─上部:初飛花瑪莉訓子), although it has the convoluted subtitle of A Poignant Obscene Artifact.
Liu took his inspiration for the two-part play from Terayama’s La Marie-Vison and The Hunchback of Aomori, which the Japanese mounted on two Beijing Opera classics, The Third Mistress Brings Up the Son (三娘教子) and Silang Visits His Mother (四郎探母). Next weekend’s 120-minute production is part one of the play — part two will be performed in October — and stars Chien Yu-shan (錢宇珊) from the Contemporary Legend Theatre (當代傳奇劇場).
This year’s festival finishes with the Dance Forum’s aptly titled Perfect Circle (10號線), which has already sold out. Perfect Circle uses a subway trip as a metaphor as it explores the journey of life.