An updated fairytale and very modern dances

Yilan County-born Lin Mei-hong has brought her ‘The Little Mermaid’ from Austria to Taichung, where TAO Dance Theater will also be appearing, while the Sydney Dance Company is in Kaohsiung with two works, including one by Cheng Tsung-lung

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Nov 01, 2018 - Page 14

There is a substantial amount of dance going on around Taiwan this weekend, from Taipei to Kaohsiung, from small festivals to major appearances by foreign companies dancing works by Taiwanese choreographers.

One of the most eagerly awaited productions is that of the TANZLIN.Z company from Linz, Austria, which will perform Yilan County-born choreographer Lin Mei-hong’s (林美虹) The Little Mermaid at the National Taichung Theater (NTT) on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

While Lin is known in Taiwan, her career has been in Europe, where she has lived for more than four decades, first as a dance student and later as artistic director of German municipal ballet companies in Plauen, Dortmund and Darmstadt. She moved to Austria in 2013 to head the TANZLIN.Z at the Landestheater Linz.

In addition to her works for those companies, she has also choreographed for operas, musicals and plays in Germany, Austria, France, Spain and Sweden.

Eight years ago she brought the Tanztheater des Staatstheaters Darmstadt to Taipei’s National Theater to perform her 2009 production, Schwanengesang (“Swan Song”). It was the first time one of her European dances had been performed in Taiwan and the dance-theater production, inspired by Belgian poet George Rodenbach’s 1892 novel Bruges-la-Morte, left audiences eager to see more of her work.

For The Little Mermaid production, which premiered last year, Lin combined the Hans Christian Andersen classic tale of a mermaid princess who falls in love with a human prince, and Oscar Wilde’s The Birthday of the Infanta, a story about a dwarf who falls in love with a beautiful princess and is mocked as a result.

The common thread linking the two ballets is the frustrations encountered by the main characters’ pursuit of love and their destructive internal struggles in the face of rejection.

The show, set to a score by Alexander von Zemlinsky and Franz Schreker, with costumes and sets by Dirk Hofacker and lighting by Johann Hofbauer, won this year’s Austria Music Theater Prize.

It will be performed in Taichung’s Grand Theater and runs 100 minutes, with a 25-minute intermission.

Many people have complained about the National Taichung Theater’s programming of two dance productions at the same times on weekends, instead of staggering the shows so that people traveling from Taipei or elsewhere could see both in one day if they wanted, a scheduling system in evidence during the Taiwan International Festival of Arts (TIFA) program this spring.

Someone appears to have heeded the criticism, and so people who want to see Lin’s show as well as Beijing-based TAO Dance Theater’s (陶身體劇場) show 5 and 9 in The Playhouse can do so on Saturday, as TANZLIN.Z is performing a 2:30pm matinee and TAO’s first performance is at 7:30pm. On Sunday, both troupes will perform at 2:30pm.

TAO, founded in March 2008 by dancers Tao Ye (陶冶), who was then just 23, and Wang Hao (王好), made its Taiwan debut in April 2014 as part of the Novel Hall Dance Series in Taipei, and were back again in November 2016 at NTT and then again last year to perform at the Cloud Gate Theatre in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水).

Tao’s choreographic style is minimalist and unique, the movements building on overlapping circular forms, with the dancers — uniformly clad and with closely shaven heads — often maintaining close physical connections with one another, appearing to move in a united form to the point where it is difficult to know where one begins and another ends.

Tao’s works are titled simply by the number of dancers in each.

In Taichung, the company will perform 5, created in 2013 and seen during the 2014 visit, and 9, which premiered last year and broke with Tao’s pattern of repetition, with the dancers moving individually as well as collectively.

The NTT was one of five in Europe, Asia and Australia to coproduce 9.

The show runs about 75 minutes, including an intermission, but the theater warns that latecomers will not be admitted.

Down at the beautiful new Weiwuying National Kaohsiung Center, the Sydney Dance Company is making a return appearance in Taiwan with a double bill of Rafael Bonachela’s Lux Tenebris and Full Moon (大明) by Cloud Gate 2 (雲門 2) artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung (鄭宗龍).

Lux Tenebris explores light and darkness to an electronic score by composer Nick Wales, with costumes by Aleisa Jelbart and lighting and stage design by Benjamin Cisterne.

Full Moon, which premiered in April last year and was Cheng’s first major work for a non-Taiwanese company, is a dance about the power of the moon and Chinese mythology about the moon, as told through eight characters.

It is set to a score by Lim Giong (林強), with costumes by Fan Huai-chih (范懷之), who did such amazing work for Cheng’s Dream Catcher (捕夢) for Cloud Gate 2, which premiered in October last year.

For dance fans who want to stay in Taipei, there is the 13th Tsai Jui-Yueh International Dance Festival (第十三屆蔡瑞月國際舞蹈節) (see “The intersection of politics, rights and dance” on page 13 in yesterday’s paper) and the Taiwan International Darkness Dance Festival (台灣國際黯黑舞蹈節) at Huashan 1914 Creative Park’s (華山1914文化創意產業園區) Umay Theater (烏梅劇院).

The Darkness festival opens today, with three performances — 9am, 2pm and 6pm — and a fourth on Saturday at 7pm, but there are just a handful of seats left for each of the shows.

This story has been updated since it was first published.

Performance Notes

WHAT: The Little Mermaid

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday at 2:30pm

WHERE: The Grand Theater at the National Taichung Theater (台中國家歌劇院), 101, Huilai Rd Sec 2, Taichung City (台中市惠來路二段101號)

ADMISSION: NT$700 to NT$2,200; available at the NTT box office, online at www.artsticket.com.tw and at convenience store ticket kiosks. There are just a score of NT$1,500 tickets left for Saturday’s show, but lots of options for Sunday’s

WHAT: TAO Dance Theater: 5 & 9

WHEN: Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm

WHERE: The Playhouse at the National Taichung Theater (台中國家歌劇院) 101, Huilai Rd Sec 2, Taichung City (台中市惠來路二段101號)

ADMISSION: NT$500 to NT$1,200; available at the NTT box office, online at www.artsticket.com.tw and at convenience store ticket kiosks

WHAT: Lux Tenebris & Full Moon

WHEN: Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm

WHERE: The Playhouse at the Weiwuying National Kaohsiung Center (衛武營國家藝術文化中心) 1, Sanduo 1st Rd, Kaohsiung City (高雄市三多一路1號)

ADMISSION: NT$300 to NT$1,600; available at the Weiwuying box office, online at www.artsticket.com.tw and at convenience store ticket kiosks