Dance Base, Edinburgh
August 9, 2018
It’s not surprising that the four Chang brothers are well-known figures in Taiwanese dance. After all, how often do four siblings all train as professional dancers, and all at the same institution, Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA, 國立臺北藝術大學).
Chang Dance Theatre (長弓舞蹈劇場) was founded in 2011 by eldest brother, Chien-hao (張堅豪) but it’s only now that all four come together on the same stage as he is joined by artistic director Chien-chih (張堅志), plus Chien-kuei (張堅貴) and Ho-chien (張鶴千). And what a gem they have come up with. Israeli choreographer Eyal Dadon’s Bon 4 Bon is inventive, humorous, has some fabulous dance, and is a delight from start to finish.
The title comes partly from ‘bon’ being French for good (actually ‘tres bon’ is more accurate), and from it being part of the name of the group whose music it is largely danced to, the Bon Iver Orchestra.
The audience enters to Chien-kuei laying on the floor reminiscing into a microphone about his childhood and starting to dance. Smiles come as we hear how he was crazily afraid of cockroaches, although thoughts always seems to come back to who ate the mangos that used to mysteriously disappear from the fridge. Bon 4 Bon is decidedly playful in every respect.
The dance and text that follows after the other three brothers have crept in is mischievous. Their close relationship is evident. Looks speak volumes in dance that’s all about brotherhood, family and friendship. There are arguments too, of course, and rivalry and even a touch of jealousy, but being brothers they never last long. I understand much fun was had in making it. Not a surprise.
There may be only four of them but they manage to fill the space with movement that is free and light, its clarity emphasised by occasional sudden pauses in time to the music, especially a dance to Paul McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’. Individually they are a joy to watch, dancers out of the top drawer but for just how well they move as one, look out for an ensemble section about 20 minutes in that is performed as together as anyone could wish to hope for.
In a reference to the fact they had to share a wardrobe as youngsters, they swap clothes. Taking it turns at a mic they let us in on a few more memories. But those mangos, and who ate them, are never far away. It is so completely honest and totally sincere. Dance that is so personal can feel distant. Bon 4 Bon is as opposite as you could wish it to be. From start to finish, it’s heart-warming, accessible and beautifully judged, and quite honestly a breath of fresh air on a Fringe where so much work seems to be over-thought and so wrapped up in meaning that it becomes invisible.
Highly, highly recommended.
Bon 4 Bon by Chang Dance Theatre, part of the Taiwan Seeason, is on at Dance Base to August 26. Visit tickets.edfringe.com for tickets and details.