Experimental Theater, Xiqu Center, Taipei
November 18, 2017
When seen on New Year’s Eve last year, The Floating Space (浮域誌異) by Wu Chien-wei (吳建緯) and Tussock Dance Theater (野草舞蹈聚落) proved a great way to end dance in 2016. With its striking set, gorgeous lighting and costumes, and five excellent dancers (Wu was joined by Wang Yuan-li, 王元俐; Chen Jia-hong, 陳佳宏; Lin Yu-hua, 林鈺華; and Shen Ying-ying, 沈盈盈), it really does have it all.
Revisiting it almost a year later, all that still holds true. The more intimate setting on the Experimental Theater at the recently opened Xiqu Center (Taiwan Traditional Theater Center) provided some different perspectives, though. Seated much closer to the action it was possible to really appreciate the performers’ expressions and just how much of the movement came from within.
Being so close, Li Hui-qiu (李慧秋) and James Teng’s (滕孟哲) striking, two-piece hanging sculpture doesn’t so much dominate the stage as loom over it. It works wonderfully as a way of diving the stage, the dancers able to move between and behind the different sections. Being seated a little above the stage floor also makes it much easier to see the light and dark cast by Goh Boon-ann’s (吳文安) sensitive lighting.
Although there are narratives within scenes, The Floating Space is essentially a meditation on man’s ignorance and greed, and presents deities waking up in the post-apocalyptic ruins of the world he has destroyed.
The dance itself is as full of light and shade as the stage. Personal favourite moments again include a male duet, and a trio that’s full of graceful lifts, as if the woman has suddenly been caught in an up draught, then for a moment floats on the air. But there is grace and beauty wherever you look. Nothing is done in a rush but equally there’s always something of interest.
And what of the new 240-seat venue, part of the much large Xiqu Center, a striking building in the north of the city, a stone’s throw from Zhishan MRT station? It is essentially a multi-purpose hall rather than specifically a black-box theatre, and feels a bit like it. The seats take you very close the action but the stage area is not that deep. A more pressing issue for dance is that the seating (very comfortable, by the way) is not tiered steeply enough, which means that anything that happens on or near the floor within several metres of the front is difficult to see if more than a few rows back. Still, it’s another useful addition to Taipei’s ever-growing number of venues.