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New Choreographer 2012

by David Mead

September 22, 2012 -- Performance Hall, Eslite Xinyi Store, Taipei

Going to a bookstore to watch dance. I know it sounds odd. But the performance hall on the top floor of Eslite’s Xinyi store in Taipei proved to be an excellent venue, although with the audience on three sides, not one without its challenges.

Getting opportunities to show work can be tricky for new choreographers. So top marks also to Ho Hsiao-mei, artistic director of Meimage Dance Company, for following up a similar event last year with another platform for four dancers trying their hand at choreography.

Lin Li-chuan, Chen Yun-ju, Luo Wei-chun and Chang Yi-chun have studied and worked abroad, and connections between their choreography, way of moving and dance experience was quite apparent. Unfortunately, much of that choreography was also rather naïve. Most disappointingly, three of the four seemed to have given little thought to the fact this was not a regular stage. Yes, not having a single front causes problems, but it also provides opportunities.

Those opportunities were well and truly grabbed by Chen, though, a dancer with Anhaltisches Theater in Dessau, Germany. Her “Breathing” was easily the pick of the works on show. A man lies under a strip light. A woman appears to be administering CPR, but it’s as if she is breathing for him as every one of her pulses is accompanied by an audible breath. That idea later extends to other body parts, there’s a neat role reversal, and some innovative use of the back wall of the hall. Best of all, though was the way the dance was structured, slowly building to a climax in perfect tandem with the increasingly audible strains of Bach’s Sonata no.1 in B minor for Violin and Harpsichord. Chen clearly has talent and is one to watch out for.

Opening the programme, Lin’s duet “Under Frame” was apparently about comparing ideas of freedom and confinement. The dance was a mix of contemporary movement with bursts of ballet from Lin. That certainly reflected his training at SUNY Purchase and work with Atlanta Ballet, but the ballet always felt most out of place. Huge grand jetés and pirouettes appeared from nowhere. I guess the idea was that they represented breaking free, but all too often it seemed more simply because he could do them. There were moments of emotion that were nicely conveyed by his partner Shen Yi-wen. Unfortunately the affected Lin tended to overact on a grand scale. It wouldn’t have looked great even if he was Siegfried in “Swan Lake”, but it doesn’t work in such a small space and a classic this most definitely was not.

London-based Luo has previously worked with the Henri Oguike Dance Company, not that there was any sign of Oguike’s fluidity and musicality here. According to her, “Moving Forward” is a self-portrait about breaking free from restrictions, from rules, and references her having to develop an independent way of thinking, studying and dancing when she went to the UK. It included her being tied with ribbons and elastic rope, lots of deliberately clumsy falling over, and getting into a fight with a not very attractive dress. I’ll say no more.

Chang’s “Orbicular Sky & Rectangular Earth”, was at least pleasant to watch. It aimed to present his spiritual journey that paralleled his physical travelling with the Cirque du Soleil. Their influence was apparent in dance that included a significant amount of tumbling and some impressive work with a huge silk. Chang showed superb control and strength throughout, although the dance never really went beyond creating nice pictures. One was left with the feeling that it was all a little superficial, and that could have been so much more.

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