focusdance_2304Shih Wei-Chieh is a young Taiwanese visual artist. One of his many projects combining modern technology and software with traditional arts was in this co-operation with Li Jiexin. In this piece he uses his musical background and objective art to rebuild a new story with no preconceptions as the movements of Li Jiexin's body interplay with and change the music and image.

Click here to see an interview with Shih Wei-Chieh and Li Jiexin explaining their work 2304+1

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Ladies and Gentlemen, here is Rock in Hose!!

The burlesque dance troupe was formed in 2009 in Taiwan. Please meet Alita d'Bone and Trixie Treatz from Canada, Kitty N. Heat and Amor Galore from the U.S., Duke Vita and Onyx from South Africa.

WuSiWei_2010JulyProlog01_big

When you think the last of your youth has been robbed from you; your energy, ideals and dreams...

Stop! Look! Listen! Dance!

Empower yourself, stop thinking, relieve your mind of any thoughts and achieve enlightenment through dancing. Everyone needs to sing or dance. Are you missing out on this aspect of life? Enjoyed from it's purest and simplest to its most complex forms, dance has been pushing the boundaries of the human body since the dawn of man.

Dance is a natural high, both healthy and cathartic. Perhaps suggesting that if the world leaders got together and danced, all the wars of the world would be ended, could be oversimplified, perhaps even heretic, but... perhaps, just perhaps it would. On a smaller scale their is real healing potential in dance. When words become scarce, your body can become your language. A flick of the neck and a twirl can say "I'm yours"; as you stride the floor at a wedding all the family quarrels can be forgotten in an instant; and bouncing up and down at a rave in the mountains can defeat the anxiety of any economic crisis as faith in nature, in the pure is restored.

Dance is also a non-exclusive recreational activity, in which anyone can partake in regardless of means, class or status. Dance and rave culture produced the generation of love, or the Peace, Love, Unity and Respect where people of all creed and colour joined in bliss. Whether you are the most gymnastic of dancers in the infamous Cloud Gate, one of the Queen's finest in the Royal Ballet or a hundred year-old Kazuo Ohno still twirling his fingers to the very last beat. Whether you are attending your first school disco, raving away your adrenaline-filled teens, or enjoying your hard earned retirement, ballroom dancing in front of Houhai Park in Beijing.

AboJiexin01In the case of East-West dialogue there is much to be appreciated and gained from this cross-cultural exploration. With globalisation, a whole new world of exploration has been opened to us. The Beijingers have taken to Ballroom dancing and made it an outdoor park pastime. All over Asia interest is generated in obscure dances of aborigine and minority groups as a protection and celebration of diversity. Many dancers have started adopting Indian and Buddhist meditation techniques combining them with various dance forms. All around the world people are fusing different dance concepts and while language is the first step to understanding another culture, dance is a language that can help you reach another level.

We were able to put this months focus together with the generous collaboration of five dance acts and an experimental piece of dance-performance art. Firstly, we present the technical finesse Liu Shao-lu's Taipei Dance Circle and his three dancers Wang Xianbin, Huang Ruyue, Liujiaxing who we filmed in a rehearsal that was more powerful than than most performances. They combine contemporary dance with eastern martial arts and Taichi but incorporate Taiwanese traditional ceremonies. Then we report on the Horse company who are self-proclaimed as the only male-exclusive band in Taiwan. The Yuan Dancers also include old customs and their Arts Director Faidaw Fagod brings us back to the roots of Aboriginal dance in Taiwan. In contrast, the to-hot-to-handle dancers of Taiwan's only burlesque troupe, the Rock in Hose, use humour and parody to promote their social causes. If that hasn't inspired you to swing, twist, jump and twirl, we also explore some experimental acts with Sannyas tribute and development of the form of Butoh favoured by the recently deceased Kazuo Ohno, and a young digital artist Shih Wei-Chieh combines his inventions with that of freelance dancer Li Jiexin to create his latest piece 2304 + 1.

"I care not how you dance, but why" Pina Bausch

(Photos by Yu-ying Li and Shih Wei-chieh)

 

Since 2007 the Sannyas Meditational Workshop has been experimenting with the use Kazuo Ohno's style of Butoh in theatre works. The Presentation Series was a 4-part workshop following in this light which started in March this year. Before the final performance, Presentation 4 on June 19th, Kazuo Ohno passed away aged 103 years old, thus this final performance was a valedictory to the pioneer of Butoh and the biggest inspiration to Sannyas.

Deva Satyana wrote the following passage to introduce 'Presentation 4' and give a tribute to the life and Butoh of Kazuo Ohno:

On June 1st 2010,

Kazuo Ohno left this world

but perhaps Kazuo Ohno's Butoh worksannya_dance

has just entered a new phase

Thus, we must continue to ask: What is Butoh?

Critiques split Hijikata and Ohno into dark Butoh and spiritual Butoh

But what is dark? And what is spiritual?

Formed of spirit, life and nature

further definition and analysis affords no gain

Because each dancer is unique

Finding their own distinct path to spirituality

When sandstorms cover the skies,

sannya_dance_Kazuo-Ohno

you must wait for the sand to settle, before you can find your own way

Similarly, only when your train of thought, ideas, impulses and feelings have calmed,

can your consciousness truly emerge, clear and distinct as the shine of a mirror

And this consciousness must be able to exist in your body

In other words the body must produce this paramount channel of consciousness

The body's central balance, alertness and freedom,

these various aspects of body and consciousness

in Kazuo Ohno and Yoshito Ohno's Butoh teachings

are all key elements, whether explicit or hidden

Qualities one must realise, before the colourful images of the soul can reach their correct place and function

 

Presentation 4 marks the conclusion of this phase of Sannyas'

The next phase will be the building of this body state and consciousness,

Fully, assiduously entering the spirit that Mr. Kazuo Ohno envisaged

this abstruse, mysterious and dazzling universe

dance_meditationThis road is not easy, not easy at all

due to the ailments of inertia and feeblemindedness

Even so, Kazuo Ohno is still watching us

perhaps with even more encouragement and expectations

And thus, Sannyas will keep moving

towards a true essence, a true divinity

...a true Butoh

(Translated from Chinese by Nick Coulson)

 

The following video contains fragments of the Presentation series:

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The written tribute was accompanied by this video introduction to 'Presentation 4'

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Directed by Chris Churcher in 2007.  With dancer Yu Ming-Chu on a choreography by Simon Williams, music by Aaken, produced by Fred Chuang.

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Shih Wei-Chieh is a young taiwanese visual artist. One of his many projects combining modern technology and software with traditional arts was in this co-operation with Li Jiexin. In this piece he uses his musical background and objective art to rebuild a new story with no preconceptions as the movements of Jiexin's body interplay with and change the music and image.

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Click here for a video of the 2304+1 performance

Horse01At the end of 2004, a group of young Taiwanese dancers founded their own dance group, "Ma-Chang" (馬場), to continue their passion for dance and to cooperate in-depth. “Ma-Chang” means “horse ranch” and they named it thus for two reasons. First, two of the group members were born in the year of horse according to the Chinese zodiac. Second, the image of horses running wild and free inspired the dancers.

They asked the calligrapher Zhang Mei-Ju to make a representative seal for their dance group, but Master Zhang disliked their original name. After they explained their intentions, Zhang suggested that they could change the name to “Biao” (驫 has three Chinese characters for horse - 馬 - stacked in a pyramid shape), which is an old Chinese word meaning a group of horses, and represents their vitality. The group of boys accepted it delightedly and “Biao dance theatre*” officially came into being.

After that, they started to plan their first performance - ”M_DANS”. They held a press conference and tried to explain the idea of this dance, yet the media cared more about the make up of the group. Finally, a journalist said “You are all males! I guess that’s what makes you different”. These boys suddenly realized what he said is true: there was no girl in this group!

“The only all-male dancing group in Taiwan” now is the hallmark of ‘Horse’. Artistic director Chen Wu-Kang says “We didn’t plan to be like this, it’s just a coincidence. We didn’t reject girls, we just found out that there are plenty of advantages dancing among boys only.”

“For example,” Chen said, “Men are more energetic, and more powerful in their physical expressions”. Male dancers have more endurance and are more muscular so they are more comfortable with each other when they dance together. When a man and woman dance together, it always seems like there is a love story. When there are only men, the dance seems more neutral. Then the choreographer can better concentrate on common themes of humanity, like the feeling of loss, desire or maturing.

Horse02That’s why the performances of ‘Horse’ in these years do not use a narrative, but instead explore the possibilities of the human body, the interaction between humans, and the interaction between humans and space. Thus, in the piece entitled ‘Proverb’, choreographed by the American Eliot Feld, (from the creation ’M_Dans 2010’, March 2010), the dancer Chen Wu-Kang only wore flesh-coloured underwear, with small round lights in his palms. He danced in the dark, and ethereal female voices arose from all around him. He opened and closed his palms, projecting the light on to his face or towards the audience, and also drew a giant shadow behind him to highlight the contrast between real and illusory bodies (That is, between his body and the shadows). This dance demonstrated that when the costume, scenery and lighting are simple, the audience can concentrate more wholeheartedly on the dancer’s moving body.

Of course, many dance groups also emphasize their bodies and translate themes through their bodies. Yet ‘Horse’ has its own unique playing style in its dancing, and this distinguishes the troupe from others. There is something particular about big boys: they tend to like messing around, they like to compete with each other and to step into the territories of others’ bodies. There might be conflicts, but they will be solved with humor.

One of their other specificities is the way they create their dance pieces. For the ‘M Dans’ show for example, each member choreographed several short dances individually, and then combined them into a final one. They learned to work with each other and appreciate personal characteristics through this process. Later, they would have a main theme, and then members each translated the theme in their own way, thus the audience could see how the different expressions enriched the dance. It made the dancers cooperate even better, and the group worked very smoothly.


(*In Chinese “Biao dance” is pronounced “biao wu”, which refers to a word meaning “dancing wildly and competitively”)

Adapted to English by Cathy Chuang
Horse website

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GuangHuan02The 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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