National Experimental Theater, Taipei
January 20, 2017
Her company having celebrated its 25th birthday last August, Kaohsiung City Ballet (高雄城市芭蕾舞團) artistic director Chang Hsiu-ru (張秀如) again found an interesting selection of contemporary ballet works for the annual Dance Shoe (點子鞋) programme. It was an evening of generally excellent dancing and some particularly fine partnering from the men, although it has to be said that the pointework, and in some pieces there was disappointingly little of note despite all the women wearing pointe shoes, was sometimes not the best.
Taking the choreographic honours was the fourth piece of the evening, The Gap (間隙) by Wei Tzu-ling (魏梓錂), a trio danced by Kuo Jung-an (郭蓉安), Liao Kun-sheng (廖坤勝) and Chuang Po-hsiang (莊博翔) set to music by Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass. The ‘gap’ of the title refers to the distance that can be between even the closest of people, especially when misunderstandings occur. Starting with each dancer in their own rectangle of light, they cast eventually come together in some delicious dance. Intelligently constructed, beautifully danced and with great lighting, it was also the most balletic piece of the evening.
I also enjoyed Constantin Georgescu’s Breath, a duet for himself and Lu Tian-ruei (呂天瑞). Danced to Dream 2 (entropy) from the mammoth eight-hour Sleep by Max Richter, it’s a look at that shadowy place that lies somewhere between being awake and being asleep.
The start, in which the couple separately shift between different circles of light, is a little overly protracted but does serve to set up what follows. It seems like both are living old forgotten memories. There was a lovely sense of distance as the couple danced around each other as though the other was not there. When they did finally touch, even though it was only momentary, I couldn’t help feeling that a spell had been broken. Georgescu has considerable experience in Austria and Switzerland, and it shows. He also has remarkable presence on stage and can make even the smallest movement seem important.
But why was an early solo from Lu’s danced so close to the front row? Anyone beyond the first three rows or so (including me) saw absolutely nothing below her waist (the theatre is a standard black box, so no raised stage). She might as well have been behind a low wall. There really is no excuse for not considering this when staging work. I knew Lu had pointe shoes on because I could hear them. And oh, could I hear them. They were the noisiest I think I have ever heard; not so much clippety-clop as bang-bang (it’s worth saying that no-one else had a problem). From the off, she also had long pigs ears showing on both shoes.
There was more moody, atmospheric work from Lai Hung-chung (賴翃中) in False (謬). Set to a couple of tracks from The Mouth of the Sun by Hymn Binding, Lai took us to a world between moving and stillness. The edgy duet from Lin Tse-an (林則安) and Lee Hang-cheng (李杭澄) with sometimes quite angular movement worked wonderfully with the gloomy, almost mournful strings of the music.
The opening Shall We? By Chien Lin-yi (簡麟懿) apparently takes its cur from the questions: ‘Shall we talk?’ ‘Shall we love?’ and ‘Shall we dance?’ I struggled to get that from the choreography, maybe because all four sections were quite short, one very short, and nothing was given time to develop. I also have no idea why it opens with Ho Tzu-wen (何姿妏) with an apple in her mouth. With everyone in dark suits, Shall We? features Ho’s three male partners doing a lot of supporting, taking weight off-balance and lifting. So much so, that the third section in particular felt little more than an exercise in partnering, albeit well-done. Musically it was a bit of a car crash, the different styles and tempos of the four eclectic selections jarring badly at every change.
Rounding things off, Flowing Island (流光之島) by Tai Ting-ju (戴鼎如) is a trio for her, Hsia Chia-hui (夏嘉徽) and Lu. The island is Tai, who we see on a sofa, lit only by a standard lamp, alone, looking as though she was searching for memories. The work is a bit enigmatic, it not being entirely clear whether the other two are people from her past, or her from her past. Unfortunately, the longer it went on, the more the meaning seemed to fade, the dance and bass beat of the music feeling mismatched with what went before.
All round, though, a pleasing evening and, yet again, top marks to Chang for putting together an attractive evening’s dance, and for giving emerging choreographers an all-important opportunity to stage work.