Review: Taiwan Season Online Performances 2021 – A Glimpse of Taiwan

Summerhall

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Online On-Demand

***

Ai-sa sa

Tjimur Dance Theatre

“Peel away each layer
And behold what lies behind
Away it goes; tears well in your eyes
Off it falls; you can’t help but smile
Layers collapse; laughing, weeping intertwine”

At the core of Tjimur Dance Theatre’s Ai-Sa Sa is an awareness of balance, of stripping away layers to find the basic balance of things – red apple/green apple, laughter/tears, care/violence. Even in form, with its blend of filmed stage work and made-for-film scenes, Ai-sa sa holds balance at its heart.

No emotion lasts long in its portrayal on stage, and the four strong cast of performers (Ching-Hao Yang, Ljaucu Tapurakac, Tzu-En Meng, Sheng-Hsiang Chiang) flit naturally between contemporary dance, physical theatre and song. With a rapid, but not rushed, pacing, Ai-sa sa brings its audience on a colourful journey through the mercurial moods and shifting relationships of the characters on screen, deftly portraying themes of impermanence, changeability, and equilibrium.

Drawing its name from a modern Paiwan phrase, used as an interjection to laugh at your own attitude, Baru Madiljin’s exuberant work reminds its audiences to get over themselves and go with the flow – “Ai-sa sa, and shake it off!”

The Back of Beyond    

Tai Gu Tales Dance Theatre 

Another work which explores ideas of balance and equilibrium, Hsiu Wei Lin’s The Back of Beyond is an intense and absorbing work. Bringing together elements of both Eastern and Western aesthetics, choreography, ritual and spirituality, this work from Tai Gu Tales Dance Theatre composes cycles of birth, death and rebirth.

Opening with the dancers engulfed in shrouds which they will return to and cast off at several points in the performance, like chrysalides, The Back of Beyond takes a pace that is at times meditative, at others almost uncomfortably slow and at yet others, frenetic and unsettling. The company demonstrates skill and focus as an ensemble, sometimes breaking away into individual movement, but often moving as though part of a single powerful organism, lead by the heartbeat of the work’s entrancing elemental score.

Though not a work for those who like a pacy, direct narrative, The Back of Beyond (which was originally designed as an immersive live experience)is a captivating show in which you can lose yourself to the powerful choreography and the design which delves into the spaces between light and dark to mesmeric effect.

Fighters

Les Petites Choses Production

Based on a classical work of Chinese literature, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Nai-Hsuan Yang’s Fighters is a light-hearted work which examines dancers’ relationships with their bodies and minds in this global time of uncertainty and isolation. Where its source text is famously lengthy and complex, Fighters is a condensed fifteen-minute work which, even though I could not understand the narration or find subtitles, is engaging and accessible.

Staged in spaces that sit between the domestic and mythic, Fighters blends hip-hop and contemporary styles to create an entertaining new depiction of heroism, which many people will recognise after the past year of pandemic-life.

Touchdown

Incandescence Dance

A dance work based on physics, which culminates in a visual art installation was always going to catch my attention, but Hao Cheng’s Touchdown went beyond that and captivated me.

Asking the core question, “How can one entity be recognised as two things at once?,” Touchdown uses a discussion of the nature and action of electrons to delve into deceptively philosophical ideas. By flipping the camera angle, Cheng and the dozens of sticks of chalk around him initially appear to be magnetically attached to ceiling, and this sets the tone for the inversions, diversions and contradictions that will be uncovered in this twenty-minute work.

From using himself as a compass to draw concentric circles, to examining the history of concepts in physics, Hao Cheng draws his mathematical background into his choreography and in doing so finds new avenues of creative exploration, which address age-old questions in innovative ways.

All performances in the Taiwan Season are available online via Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 6th August to 29th August 2021.

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