Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dance Forum Taipei presenting “Flashing Lucidity” as 20th anniversary offering

By Nancy T. Lu

Dance Forum Taipei is marking a 20-year milestone and celebration has kicked off with the company founded by Ping Heng touring and captivating dance audiences around Taiwan with “Flashing Lucidity” before heading for Europe.

“Interest in the design of the human body” gave birth to “Grace,” one of two pieces of choreography featured in the touring "Flashing Lucidity" program, explained Toru Shimazaki, the choreographer who used to dance with the Goh Ballet Company in Vancouver, Canada.

Yang Ming-lung’s “Eastern Wind, Too” is the other dance in focus. This has been a reconstruction of a 2002 dance creation inspired by glove puppet theater and belonging to the trilogy titled “Eastern Current.”

In creating a dance, Shimazaki usually finds inspiration and point of departure first in music. “Grace” has been no exception. In fact, he began by “living with the music of Ryuichi Sakamoto, listening to it while driving, eating dinner at home and so on.”

Then came the minimalist image of a Japanese garden covered with white pebbles. He saw mechanical metal bonsai moving and crisscrossing, resulting in a complex picture. He then went to work on a choreography, which evolved to give a similar feeling.

The 20-minute piece entailed “creating something from scratch,” he said. This modern dance was unlike ballet, which ordinarily involved putting classic steps with names together. The moves done to the music of Sakamoto in “Grace” did not have names, according to him.

The use of masks in “Grace” has been intended to enable spectators to see and concentrate on the evolving design. The idea is to forget about the human presence. At one point, however, the dancers must remove their masks.

Meanwhile Shimazaki also got the costume designer to turn to Japanese origami or paper art to change the shape of the human body “to enlighten, inspire and move” spectators as human beings.

Shimazaki made three trips to Taipei to create the choreography on the bodies of the hardworking Taiwanese dancers. Each working visit was for a period of about one week, revealed Ping Heng.

Yang Ming-long, a choreographer who danced with the Trisha Brown Company for five years from 1994 to 1999, confessed his fascination with glove puppet theater and particularly the puppeteer in control of everything during a performance since his childhood. This resulted in his getting ideas for dances from the particular theater art form.

“And so I tossed a string to the dancers for them to freely play with and to derive pleasure from the exercise,” said Yang, who first created the piece while serving over a three-year period as artistic director of Dance Forum Taipei. “I managed to do a two-hour video recording of the improvisational dancing. After a while, the dancers seemed to hit a wall in their show of creativity, simply repeating their earlier moves. The wall must then be torn down to pave the way for more possibilities.”

He went on: “Two weeks were originally spent on such exercises. The time to edit the taped dance footage finally came. The interesting portions were put together. It became incumbent upon the dancers to duplicate the improvisational dance moves in the edited footage. And the dancers must figure out how they originally arrived at the dance moves.”

New dancers except for one have replaced the nine original performers of the piece created seven years ago, according to Yang. He has polished the choreography and added parts to the latest version.

As for the music of choice, Yang thought Chen Young’s work as “great music” but a break with it must be made at a certain point in the choreography, rendering the visual aspect different from the audio part.

Dance Forum Taipei will present “Flashing Lucidity” at the Novel Hall for Performing Arts in Taipei at 7:30 p.m. on October 23 and 24.

The Zuiderpershuis in Belgium, the KIT Royal Tropical Theater and RASA Theater in the Netherlands as well as the Teatro Libero in Italy are waiting for the dancers in late October and early November.

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