November 20 & 27, 2021
Sun-Shier Salon: New Creation Exhibition (三十沙龍創作空間), Sun-Shier Dance Theatre’s (三十舞蹈劇場) weekend of new works, sometimes experimental, often still in-progress, has become an established and valuable part of Taipei’s dance scene in recent years. Despite the pandemic it’s good to see that executive director Wu Pi-jung (吳碧容) has managed to keep things going, even if the difficulties in staging live shows, especially with multiple artists and groups, pushed it all online. The six short films, none longer than 15 minutes, were a mixed bunch in pretty much every sense of the term.
The Metamorphosis (态變), created and performed by Chang Chi-wu (張琪武), to music by Bjork, Erik Skodvin and Leya, is a look at sexuality and internal desires, and the different ways they manifest themselves.
Performed in a regular stage setting, much use is initially made of a mirror, then of balloons. First, a long, pinky red sausage balloon that is blown up and deflated is used in a variety of ingenious ways, some overtly sexual. Later, a range of balloons of many colours flood the stage, before being formed up into a sort of chain, with Chang at one end. It’s hard not to read it as suggesting a host of desires but that are simultaneously restrictive. All told, a thoughtful piece, finely danced with Chang showing super clarity and control throughout.
Also filmed on stage, Visionary (造視者) is a solo by severely visually-impaired art critic, Hsu Chia-feng (許家峰), who enquires into his own body. Conceptualised and constructed by Hsu along with Lai Szu-ying (賴思穎), Liao Yu-ling (廖育伶) and Wang Yu-cheng (王昱程), and making good use of text, the work takes on increasing depth as it progresses, helped by the filmmakers’ willingness to give images and moments time to have full effect.
The opening to birdsong suggests the importance of sound in Hsu’s world as he talks about what he has been through. In the central section, his collapsible stick effectively becomes a partner and is used in quite inventive ways as he (they) dance to moving ‘Satin Birds’ by Abel Korzeniowski. The final section takes on a darker, more introspective mood in reference to his friends thinking either he needs to turn on the light or that he has no need for light since he cannot see.
The poignant His Story (祂的故事) by Liao Yan-yeong (廖炎勇) was created in memory of the choreographer’s late grandfather. The opening sees him being gently questioned by an electronic voice, his answers reflected in movement rather than words. Other figures appear showing the relationship between Liao and his grandparents, although their being dressed in black jump suits and masks tells us they are not here now, but memories or traces from the past. The closing solo has rare depth. There is a clarity to movement, but even better is the intensity and expression his whole body conveys, especially his eyes which feel like a window into his soul.
Life can be seen as a never-ending walk as we continually move forward from the day we were born. It’s an image that comes across strongly in the opening scene of How far remains? (還有多遠) by Lin Fang-fang (林方方). But she asks, what is the destination? What if we stop moving?
As she seeks answers, the work flips back and forth in time, Lin’s younger self portrayed by Hsu Chih-hui (許志卉). That moving between present reality and past is cleverly emphasised by Dai Cai-ru’s (戴寀如) excellent lighting, and it’s in the latter, which also includes excellent close-ups, when the film is at its most appealing.
How far remains? certainly needs editing and refining. It did feel a bit rushed at times, as though it needed more time to breathe but, of all the works, this is the one that seems to have most promise for extending and developing.
Filmed away from the stage, Unseen Normal (看不見的日常) by Yu Min-Ting (喻敏婷) and Yang Li-wei (楊立微) took us back to dullness of lockdown life when we were stuck at home. The sense of drifting through days is brought by Yu using Yang’s feet as supports (we actually never see anything of her above her lower legs). It’s not without humour, one such moment coming when she uses one of her partner’s feet as a scouring pad while washing up.
It’s a bit like a video diary of the dreary and humdrum everyday. We find ourselves in a messy apartment, Yu struggling with a mountain of laundry. As we follow her through a series of mundane activities (I don’t think we really need to see her go to the toilet, though), there is an underlying sense of isolation and melancholy. I’m not sure why the decision was made to speed the film up at one point and slip another effect in. As in almost invariably the case, all it does is spoil the flow and atmosphere.
Finally, Winding (曲徑) by Chang Yun-chen (張勻甄) is based on what she calls ‘action painting’ that focuses on the lines created by a rope and her body. The film at its most engaging in the close-ups when we can only see her lower legs and cord, and in the greyer rainy shots. The editing is a little busy though. Several times I wanted shots and moments to linger. None did.