Dance Theater, Taipei National University of the Arts
March 11, 2017
Graduation performances by MFA students featuring their own choreography can be difficult going. While most of the presenters are excellent dancers, the craft of choreography takes much longer to learn, a lot of it coming from experience. Then there’s the fact that the need to show a range of works in such shows frequently highlights weaknesses as much as strengths, often reflected in personal choreographic likes and dislikes.
The good news is that Here I Love You (我在這裡愛你), a triple bill of works by Lin Chen-yu (林俊余) that elaborated on a theme of boundaries, albeit loosely at times, proved to be much more hit than miss with plenty of good dance on show. Although I was rather less taken by the final piece, Forking Paths (歧路), all three works benefitted hugely from Lin having one really solid idea and sticking to it, and not allowing herself to get distracted. All three pieces also had intelligent musical selections, structured in a way that made musical sense (often a weakness with students), and in the middle Picnic (野餐), excellent designs too.
The Weeping Meadow (悲傷草原), which opened the evening, takes up a theme for today’s world if ever there was one: a group of displaced people forced to migrate to an unknown place. But while they may be unwilling migrants, they are not without dreams and hopes.
The work takes its title from the 2004 Greek romantic drama film by Theo Angelopoulos that charts the story of a group of a family that returns to Greece after the Russian Revolution, and that adopts an orphaned girl, Eleni. Lin also uses music from the movie by Eleni Karaindrou, which fits the mood perfectly alongside part of Steve Reich’s busy Mallet Quartet.
It opens with lots of running round by the cast of six, as if fleeing or escaping as a group. As the work moves on, one really does start to develop a belief in what these people are doing and where they are going. It really was all danced with great conviction, none more so than by Zheng Wei (鄭媙), who often seemed to be signposting the direction they should take, and whose expressive face bore a marvellously haunted look of someone who had endured much suffering.
Best of the three pieces, however, was Picnic, a duet that takes up the idea that time has no boundaries. Danced beautifully by Lin Fang Fang (林方方) and Yang Chia-en (楊迦恩) on a patch of synthetic grass amid a sea of opened black umbrellas (top marks for design here too), there is a sense that what we are seeing are memories from times past, or maybe hopes for times future, of a relationship or relationships, with all the various emotions that entails. It was very subtly done dance drama. Another great musical choice too, this time Life And Death by the Balanescu Quartet, exquisite strings and a gorgeous example of melancholy, although I felt Bach’s Aria Da Capo was too overly sentimental to close things with.
Despite a promising opening set in a square of light that sees the four dancers moving towards, falling towards and supporting each other in a complex sequence, Forking Paths proved less successful. Apparently, it’s an exploration of human relationships, of people eager to love and be loved. I certainly didn’t get that; maybe they are still looking. There were moments when I thought it might just all be pulled back together, but overall it left me quite cold, matters not being helped by a mostly unappealing movement vocabulary that did little to show off the fine dancers Lin had at her disposal.