Taiwan's 5th appearance at local Avignon festival

by on 週四, 30 六月 2011 評論

For the fifth consecutive year, Avignon Off Festival, located in the South of France, welcomes several Taiwanese groups. Among the invited companies are WC Dance Company created by Lin Wen-Chung, who used to work with the famous Taipei Folk Dance Theatre, and the internationally recognized Ten Drum Art Percussion Group, led by the talented percussionist master Chiu Ya-Hui. This year, for a better understanding of the shows by the French audience, the Cultural Center of Taiwan focused on dance and music. The previous year, they presented more theatrical performances, which though beautiful one, were however more difficult for non-Chinese audiences.

A Tribute to Contemporary Taiwanese Dance

From July 8th to July 31th, Taiwanese artists invest, for the third time, in le Theatre de la Condition des Soies*, a former silk factory located in the heart of Avignon. Two of the associated companies, the youngest ones (less than four years of existence) come from the current capital, Taipei, the modern city with its three million inhabitants and its huge buildings: WC Dance created by Mr. Lin and the M.O.V.E Theatre led by Fu Hong-Zheng. The other ones, the Scarecrow Contemporary Dance Company led by Luo Wen-Jinn and the Ten Drum Art Percussion Group founded by Hsieh Shi, respectively twenty-two and eleven years of existence, originate from Tainan, the historical capital of Formosa, a small town in the South of the island where the way of life is undoubtedly the most delectable.

WC Dance in their studio, Xinbeitou, Taipei City (Photo: D. Vandermolina)

 

When contemporary dance mixed up deep social issues

At 1:30 pm, with the very successful "1: 0" show, Fu Hong-Zheng presents a combination of his recent creations. The first part had been successfully presented in 2009 in Avignon under the title of "Fight me now!" The choreographer highlights the violence of human relationships in our modern society, using the metaphor of the violence lying in sports competitions (use of force, intimidation, cheating…). From his observations of athletes’ gestures and movements in football, tennis, ping pong, basketball or baseball games, he creates the concept of 'Dance Theatre', in order to show the - symbolic or real - violence suffered by employees in private companies, the pains of men and women at work. His choreography is between contemporary dance and physical theatre. Its creation, the aesthetic of which is visually subtle and physically powerful, is based on a very corporal dance, revealing universal symbols: the flower as the symbol of natural balance; drugs as a dangerous way to escape from daily life; and the knife as the violent way to take power from the other. Behind the struggle for one’s life or survival, the show unveils a critic of Taiwanese society, where the individual is still submitted to group pressure and where Love - the 0 in the title is the symbol of love- always passes after the daily duties and the search for safety.

The subject of the lack of love in Taiwanese relationships is the main questioning of Luo Wen-Jinn’s latest creation: "The Keyman", presented at 3: 40 pm, is inspired by the true story of a dancer with whom Wen Jinn has worked. Shocked by her story, she decided to unveil in her art work the hidden and dark side of a Taiwanese family in their daily life. The young woman based herself on Kafka and Schopenhauer writings in order to explain her choreographical work. She questions our deep inner pain and sorrow, distress and suffering: who can save us from this? The repeated movements of the characters, sitting around a table – the single element of the minimalist stage design-, highlight their inner torment. Their dance is accompanied by a creaking musical background and the dancers are wrapped up by a light oscillating between livid whiteness and bright red. The Mother, compulsively dedicated to her duty, is unable to express her love for the little girl, victim of physical/symbolic violence from her parents and sisters, themselves perpetrators and victims of a twisted education. The choreographer focuses on the loss of confidence, the sense of non-existence and strangeness of the main character in her own family. She presents, with beauty and intelligence, some of the reasons for the Taiwanese disturbed behavior in life, their difficulty to express their own identity in front of the group they belong to, their irrational fear and unsafe feeling that lead them to an obsessive search for safety in their relationships and everyday life (studies, job, friendship, even love…); all these things they hide behind an exaggerated politeness and an excessive shyness.

These two beautiful shows offer a mirror of the contradictions lying at the heart of Taiwanese society, questioning Taiwanese tradition and revealing what is behind the apparent tranquility of Taiwanese people.

Keyman2

The keyman (Photo courtesy of Scarecrow Contemporary Dance Group)

 

Between Dreams and Magic

Lin Wen-Chung’s last creation does not have this ambition: his show deals with the memories of childhood in a more fun way. "Small puzzles”, presented at 5:50 pm, has the peculiarity to be a choreographical piece of which the stage design is fully adjustable to any type of stage: small, medium or large stage. In the show, the dancers play with small items – cubes and geometrical elements - like children in a kindergarten. "Small puzzle" is the third variation of the ‘small pieces’ initiated by the choreographer. As he has a small rehearsal studio, he has been inspired by this concrete situation to imagine a reduced dance form in order to see how the dancers can evolve in a confined space and how it is possible to play with minimalist design. Finally, the one who dreamed of becoming stage designer succeeds in combining his two passions, dance and stage design. His choreographies are original and dynamic, very different from modern conceptual contemporary dance. Indeed, even if he 'loves contemporary dance because it is abstract, it expresses feelings that words cannot describe, dance is dance and I like simple and essential things'. He wishes to present next year in Avignon another variation of his "Small Pieces": "Small Nanguan", recently presented in Taipei, a small jewel mixing both traditional Taiwanese instruments and contemporary dance.

TENDRUMFinally, the percussion-lovers will have the honor to watch the latest creation of Ten Drum at 8:30. The show, "the glory of ten drum", highly visual, takes the audience into a dreamy and magical world where the hypnotic power of percussion envelopes us all, led by a master in percussion. The performance invites us to listen to a shining and colorful musical Taiwanese drum tradition that still inspires many art groups on the island. Ten Drum have made the opening of several international events including the Sydney Olympic Summer Games in 2000. They have more than a thousand members and one can discover their village, the TEN DRUM CULTURE VILLAGE, located in Tainan. The company will come again to France for the Toulouse MADE IN ASIA Festival in January/February 2012.

However, if you can’t fly to Formosa, come and have a look at the Taiwanese shows presented this summer in Avignon. You will surely appreciate the freshness of our Provencal trees and the warmth of the Sun of the Midi. We encourage you to discover these talented artists who really wish to share their culture with French people, all with simplicity and a sense of hospitality, and kindness that is so Taiwanese, Whether you are fans of contemporary dance or any kind of performances.

*Théâtre de la Condition des soies 13 rue de la croix - 84000 Avignon/Ticket information : 04 32 74 16 49

Diane Vandermolina

Diane Vandermolina was born on the 12th February 1976, in Marseille, France. After her Master in Philosophy and Theatre studies, she worked with different theatre in Marseille as an art advisor (Theatre Gyptis, Cameleone Company...) and press relations (for the First African Movie Festival). She also publishes short stories in newspapers and has written theatre plays which will be staged next year in France and Taiwan. Living between Marseille and Taipei, she is very involved in the Taiwan art scene, writing on Taiwanese theatre, dance, movie and design arts - and trying to make them better known in France by creating the first Taiwanese Art Festival in France in 2013. She is currently the chief director of la 'Revue Marseillaise du Théâtre', a French cultural magazine she created in 2004, and the chief organiser of an annual festival in Marseille, les 'Theatralia', the first French theatre festival in a commercial centre. Passionate about photography, she takes pictures of shows for French theatre companies and as a professional journalist (French press card 106063). She specialises in art criticism, but also makes reports on various topics such as society, culture, arts and gastronomy, collaborating with different medias (French newspapers and radios such as 'L’Express', 'Cassandre', 'Marseille la Cité', 'l’Officiel des Loisirs', 'Radio Grenouille'...), teaching Cultural Journalism at the Journalist School of Marseille, EJCM, Aix Marseille University. She is also the general secretary of Marseille Provence Press Club, dedicated to journalists, and works as expert with Marseille City Hall and the French Ministry of Youth and Sports on cultural and theatrical projects.

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