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Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Tuesday, 22 June 2010 18:21

Breathe with Taipei Dance Circle

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The Taipei Dance Circle was founded by Liou Shaw-Lu in 1985, formerly a co-founder of the Cloud Gate, widely recognised as one of the biggest contributors to contemporary dance in Taiwan. The Circle absorbs aspects from traditional Hakka ceremonies along with Tai Chi and other eastern martial arts to form their aesthetic.

 

Creeping around, past broken wires into an abandoned middle school in Xinbeitou, we went to find out what exactly the Dance Circle were up too in such a secretive location...

 
 
 

On arriving, the troupe were beginning a practice performance, I was speechless and heart palpitating as the tension in the line formed by line of three dancers pushed me into a corner. After, Teacher Liou enthusiastically began detailing the pursuits and personnel of his current troupe and how he sees puts emphasis on three areas when creating his dances: mind, body and the mystical Chi based around breathing methods. The bottom line, however, was that these feelings, these physical emotions could not be put into words."When your body begins listening to you, the need for language becomes obsolete", Teacher Liou concluded...

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Photos provided by Taipei Dance Circle and N. Coulson

 

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The 1980s saw in Taiwan the emergence of the Taiwanese aboriginal movement. In 1991, the “Yuan dancers” company was established in response to the demand for aborigines to be able to perform their own dances.

Before that, aboriginal dance and music were performed in Taiwan by non-aboriginal dancers who were unable to capture the true spirit of the dances. Faidaw Fagod, founder and artistic director of the Yuan dancers company, said “Most dancers apply the feet position they’ve already learnt to the aboriginal dances, with the toes outwards for example, but to aboriginals, it is not the right way to dance!” Also, these so-called aboriginal dance troupes were originally meant for tourists: they were using electronic music, changing the dances styles and improperly mixing music from different tribes. So, among the aborigines, some started to think that they should rediscover the real essence of aboriginal dance “using pure aborigine sound, using aborigine own breathing and dancing with aborigine own rhythm”.

The Yuan dancers asked the elders of the tribes to teach young people how to dance the original aboriginal dances. But it is very difficult when you are far away from your land to make people understand the essence of this art. So the elders changed their way of teaching and they decided to take the students to the tribe to make them experience the aborigines’ reality onsite. The most important aspect of aboriginal dance is to feel the vitality and the energy of its ‘wilderness’. Faidaw Fagod said “Yuan dancers have a different practice of dance to other professional dancers. In fact, there is not a specialized way of teaching. We would like the dancers to learn and understand the dance by repeating the chants and the movements such as ‘feet-tapping’. It is through practice that they will find the right way to dance”. Repetition and practice also allow oneself to familiarize with the dance movements and dance partners. When they hold each others’ hands, the dancers can feel each others’ breath and emotions, and then harmony emerges through the tacit understanding is developed.

Faidaw Fagod also likes to make fun of himself by saying that he is the “ancestor” of the company, as he’s been dancing for 19 years: “Since the foundation of the company until now, I have participated in many shows but I still do not feel tired of it because the people I dance with always have different feelings. When I dance, I like to feel the mood of the person next to me and try to guess what the person besides me is thinking about. Does he feel comfortable? Is he worried about something? I can feel all these things while I am dancing”.

Dancing is mostly a matter of moving and feeling, so the Yuan dancers welcome all aborigines without distinction of age or sex; thus they have members ranging in age from 10 to 48. Faidaw Fagod also says that for the dance company’s survival and development, Yuan dancers are now cooperating with other artists who help them to write scenarios, direct the plays or train them in a more specialized way. Thus for example, the professional training schedule includes a 3 or 4 hour practice of calligraphy to develop patience and concentration.

As the Yuan dancers extended their collaboration with choreographers and stage directors of all origins, including non-aborigines, might they lose their group spirit and cohesion? Faidaw Fagod is very optimistic and says with confidence: “No, we do not fear such a phenomenon because the aboriginal people will keep repeating and reproducing the rites of the aborigines. We wish to offer even more new creation and, regardless of the further changes to come, we will keep the spirit of the aboriginal people alive”.

Adapted to English by Marie Delaplanche

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Photos by Huang YuShun

 

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On June 1st 2010, Kazuo Ohno, one of Butoh's two great pioneers, passed away aged 104. Below are some inspiring words he donated to the universe in 1998:

A Message to the Universe

On the verge of death one revisits the joyful moments of a lifetime.
One's eyes are opened wide-gazing into the palm, seeing death, life, joy and sorrow with a sense of tranquility.
This daily studying of the soul, is this the beginning of the journey?
I sit bewildered in the playground of the dead. Here I wish to dance and dance and dance and dance, the life of the wild grass.
I see the wild grass, I am the wild grass, I become one with the universe. That metamorphosis is the cosmology and studying of the soul.
In the abundance of nature I see the foundation of dance. Is this because my soul wants to physically touch the truth?
When my mother was dying I caressed her hair all night long without being able to speak one word of comfort. Afterwards, I realized that I was not taking care of her, but that she was taking care of me.
The palms of my mother's hands are precious wild grass to me.
I wish to dance the dance of wild grass to the utmost of my heart.

A Message to the Universe by Kazuo Ohno

(Translated from Japanese by Maura Nguyen Donohue, Dance Insider)

 

 
 

In late 2005, Deva Satyana founded Sannyas, or the Sannyas Meditation Theatre, finally planting the seeds of Kazuo Ohno butoh in Taiwan. While the everchanging troupe follows in the soulful footsteps of Kazuo Ohno's Butoh, it is heavily influenced by Indian meditative practices and the writings of Osho. Sannyas means seeker of the truth. Here Satyana explains a bit more about the concepts and philosophy behind Sannyas.

 

In February 2010, Sannyas made a tribute dance to Kazuo Ohno. Hidden in the crumbling buildings of Taipei's Wolong Street, the new Sannyas troupe ventured the furthest they had ever been into the fourth dimension. For a slideshow of the performance, click here

 

Visit Sannyas' website

 

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