Many choreographers or founding directors of a new dance company would opt for a flashy, bravura work for the troupe’s debut to serve notice of its arrival and create a buzz.
Flashy is not Wu Chien-wei’s (吳建緯) style as a dancer and apparently will not be his as a choreographer or artistic director of the company he founded in March, Tussock Dance Theater (兩個身體).
Wu is a graduate of Taipei National University of the Arts (國立臺北藝術大學), where he was in the third class of students admitted to the university’s seven-year high school/bachelors’ degree program. That class year has produced several fine choreographers, so he had a lot to live up to with last weekend’s shows.
He joined forces with Chinese dancer/choreographer Xing Liang (邢亮), who has carved out a name for himself with his work for City Contemporary Dance Company in Hong Kong.
Two Bodies / Xing Liang X Wu Chien-wei (兩個身體 / 邢亮 X 吳建緯) was inspired by Chinese author Lu Xun’s (魯迅) prose poem collection Ye Cao (野草) or Wild Grass, published 1927. The characters in the poems are solitary, often appearing to exist within a void. Wu and Xing captured those impressions very well.
Warehouse 4 at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park is a cavernous space. Wu and Xing wisely chose to use just the back half, surrounding their dance area on all four sides with chairs. The two men were already on the dance floor, a silver reflective disk on a black square, as the audience filtered in on Saturday night. They quietly went about their stretching exercises, clad in a variety of sweat pants and tops.
Two Bodies began with the pair lying on their backs on the floor, lit only by a spotlight focused on a low wooden tea table in one corner. They slowly start to move in isolation and in silence — a leg here, an arm or hand there — before beginning a series of rolls and twists, half-rising from the floor but always connected to it by a shoulder or crooked arm. It was several minutes before they finally stood upright and begin a series of pairings and partings, slipping around each other’s bodies like water rippling over rocks.
Xiang had several intense, silent conversations throughout the piece, often more directed at himself than at Wu. Even when Wu appeared to be reacting or responding to Xiang, they did not seem to be connecting. Physically they were touching, but emotionally there was a huge disconnect.
Two Bodies is divided into three parts by brief blackouts and a shift in position of the tea table. The pair stays in their warm-up outfits for the first two parts; for the third, they strip down to their briefs and then don very wide-legged black pants. The soundtrack changes from a low industrial drone to the sound of running water, a rain storm, a violin and then back to the drone and then a tinkling of a piano.
Despite the costume and sound changes, the movements are similar through — pliant, liquid and graceful, creating a physical intimacy at odds with the men’s solitude. There were no stunning moves or standout solos, but Two Bodies was enthralling nonetheless.
The only disappointment came with the show’s end; I wanted more.