CriticalDance Forum

Huang Yi (黃翊)
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Author:  David [ Sat Feb 27, 2010 9:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Huang Yi (黃翊)

Spin 2010
Experimental Theatre, National Theater, Taipei; February 25, 2010

Just 26 years old, and still studying for his Masters degree in Choreography, which he went straight into from his first degree in dance, Huang Yi (黃翊) has already carved out quite a reputation as one of Taiwan’s foremost young choreographers. He achieved national recognition with his work for Taiwan’s noted all-male company Horse Dance Theatre (驫舞劇場), including picking up the prestigious Taishin Arts Award in 2007 for “Velocity”; and has had critical success with works for Cloud Gate 2 (雲門2舞集). He seems to be a man in a hurry.

“Spin 2010” is described in the publicity as an ‘integrated work’ that combines dance, photography, video, music and arts. That set off alarm bells! All too often choreographers start such projects with great intentions, but then the dance becomes secondary to the video and everything else going on around it. But there was hope. This was far from the first time Huang has worked with cranes and video, the piece being the culmination of four years of work that includes installations and projects in France and Taiwan.

Even so, it was with some trepidation that I took my seat, and cast my eyes over the 5-metre square stage dominated by a custom built mechanical boom hung from above, replete with an arm on the end holding a video camera, and four giant video screens behind and above the audience, seated in the round.

As the work crackled into life, and the ‘music’ really did sound like crackling electronic interference, the boom started spinning. And it continued to revolve around the stage, occasionally changing speed or level, for the whole 60 minutes. Surprisingly, far from being a distraction it became part of the dance, as if it was an extra dancer in the space. It was also a home for some LCD and laser lighting, the rotations allowing some impressive effects to be created on the stage floor.

The programme referred to a series of flowing images from a car window. The ‘flowing’ part of that is certainly correct, although the choreography simply seemed to be a collection of abstract ideas. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Despite the generally one-paced nature of the work the interest was almost held throughout, with only one duet in the middle of the piece struggling to keep one’s attention. I could, though, have done with rather less strobe lighting. Although it was mostly confined to one section, it made watching uncomfortable and was grossly overdone.

Given the ever-present risk of being hit by the boom, the ten dancers performed Huang’s largely fluid choreography with its constant intertwining of bodies with great assurance. Particularly impressive was the smoothness with which dancers arrived and left the space and on-stage partnerships constantly changed.

Perhaps it was the fact the video screens were placed above the audience combined with the fact we were looking slightly down at the dance, but they were not intrusive at all. Or perhaps it was the fact that the choreography was good enough not to notice them. When the screens stopped working half way through the piece the attention continued to be held fully, although whether that was due to Huang’s choreography for his real life dancers or more a result of the hypnotic effect of the boom is open to question.

When I did take time to look at the projections, I was struck by how well the ever-circling boom captured the movement of the dancers. The on-screen view of the dance was enhanced by many special effects, combining, inverting, superimposing and otherwise transforming the real-life movement below in many ways. Particularly potent was the way the screen was sometimes split in two, each half mirroring the other. I hope the video was recorded. Properly edited, I suspect it would make an excellent stand-alone dance film.

Author:  David [ Sun Oct 07, 2012 1:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Huang Yi (黃翊)

Double Yellow Lines (雙黃線), Whisper (低語)
Huang Yi & Hu Chien (黃翊 & 胡鑑)
Experimental Theater, National Theater, Taipei; September 27, 2012

David Mead

Huang Yi is noted as a choreographer who likes to combine dance with technology. Past pieces have included computer played violins and a spinning boom complete with cameras that send live images to screens surrounding the audience. “Double Yellow Lines” is about as different as it gets. In a complete about turn, Huang has stripped things down to the bare basics. There’s no set and minimal lighting; just two dancers and live music from French-Vietnamese composer and pianist An Ton That, (孫仕安), also known as Anken.

In the programme, Huang described the piece as being intimate and personal. It’s certainly very introspective. No doubt the various sections were reflections on different times in his life, but although I’m sure it was packed with meaning for him, it was not always clear to the audience.

Both Huang and Hu are outstanding dancers. Both are beautifully smooth and delicate. Falls to the ground are often completed without a whisper of sound. The dance was mostly lit by a single spotlight that has the effect of drawing you into their world. It also added to the haunting feeling to the action. In his solo sections, Huang frequently used a hand to initiate movement in another part of the body. In a duet with Hu, his head was often pushed down as if against his will. There was a sense of fighting against something or someone, although it was a battle he never won.

Another section saw Hu sitting at a desk, Huang dancing to the amplified sound of a pencil on paper, a pen clinked against a glass, a snapping pencil, and the sound of a metronome. It made for an effective accompaniment, although it would have been much better if Hu had not looked at Huang throughout. Maybe the idea was to make sound in response to movement, but surely it would have been more effective the other way round.

“Double Yellow Lines” ends with a long section that sees Huang replace Anken at the piano, later to be joined by him and Hu in a threesome. Apparently the idea came out of an improvisation in a rehearsal when Anken asked the dancers to play any single note on the piano and he would turn it into a musical phrase. Not that any of that was obvious on the night, because what happened was that, far from sounding like a collection of disparate phrases, the music they made sounded incredibly melodic. It was as if it had been composed, or at least every move planned. What also happened was that some of the audience, who had come to see dance, got a little restless.

“Whisper” is Huang’s prize-winning 2007 duet to Arvo Part’s “Spiegel im Spiegel”. It’s a beautiful piece of music, but it is rather danced to death. Still, in many ways “Whisper” is a more satisfying work in that it has a few more changes in dynamic and energy. It certainly stuck in the memory much more strongly after the show.

“Whisper” is beautiful and moving. The two dancers really were as one. There seemed to be a real connection between them, and not only in the startling synchronicity of movement. Where it fell down when put alongside “Double Yellow Lines” is that much of the movement seemed little more than a reprise. And why oh way, after the joy of hearing live music in the first part of the evening, couldn’t the piano version of the score have been used here. It would have added so much more.

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