Thursday, June 30, 2011

Memory of rustic pond of Liou Shaw-lu’s youth returns to inspire dance about earthly existence

By Nancy T. Lu

“Suite 2011: That Time of the Pond” thrusts choreographer and dancer Liou Shaw-lu on a nostalgic return to his past. He takes off to the farm irrigation days of his youth and remembers how life in almost every farming family then revolved around the “po tang” (Hakka word for “pond”). Aquatic life thrived in the pond as did insects hovering over it. But above all, growth on the farmland depended on its water.

Liou in the newest choreography created for the Taipei Dance Circle revisits his days brimming with hope and promise first as a young man of great physical prowess and later as artist of studied grace.

Life as captured in dance idiom is beautiful. He ventures forth with creative energy, working closely with trained dancers to build an evolving kaleidoscope of oil-covered bodies on the stage. The oil-slicked stage floor he perceives as a silent pond surface that is virtually an empty slate for him to fill with dance imagery.

A year after being confronted with brain surgery and the question of his own mortality in real life, Liou experiences a burning passion for dance. To go on living, he must keep dancing. Otherwise life holds no meaning for this artistic director of the Taipei Dance Circle. He refuses to be permanently yanked off the dance stage.

Liou grapples with the challenge to stay in control of his dream and vision as dance artist. The dangerous balancing act in his dance production adds to the dazzle and excitement of a performance. Just like in an acrobatic show, heeding the call for caution helps. The dreamer simply remains ever undaunted by the risk of a wrong move.

Liou wants to tell his story through the dance. It is a tale of passion and will power. It is about his determination not to be forced to bow out of the limelight. It is about an undying inspiration to share beauty defined by lines, silhouettes and moves.

Life in the old countryside pond of his youth with Hakka roots gets snuffed out without warning. But the memory of it all endures to fire his imagination.

And so Liou makes his dancers weave in and out – in pairs, in foursome, or in a bigger group. They come together or break up to rhythmic beat of beautifully flowing music selected personally by Liou, Sometimes natural body sounds resulting from breathing and movement come into play to dictate the dance beat. The dancers even pile up occasionally. Balance and harmony emerge crucial in fleshing out a picture. Baby oil on the bodies of the dancers and on the stage floor eases the choreographed motions of the the dancers.

Liou shows a sentimental streak in his latest choreography. But at the end of the day, he also paints a dramatic profile in courage, addressing unmistakably the question of earthly existence.

The choreography does not come about easily. As usual, Liou agonizes over the work, polishing the dance again and again.

“Suite 2011: That Time of the Pond” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. on July 15 and 16 as well as at 2:30 p.m. on July 16 and 17 at the Experimental Theater of the National Theater in Taipei. Tickets cost NT$500.

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